The Joy of Jennifer Lawrence

People who do wonderful, unique things are an inspiration to everyone. Joy the movie is about one of those people, Joy Mangano (played by an incandescent Jennifer Lawrence), a woman who is still making I-should-have thought-of-that stuff like huggable hangers and a self-wringing mop. The movie is loosely based on her life, reaching out from the dregs and up to the clouds, with loads of money to boot.

But the director, David O Russell (best known for Silver Linings Playbook, 2012 and American Hustle, 2013) has taken an unconventional route to tell this biopic tale.

Captured in his trademark chaotic directorial manner, the movie is told like a fairytale by Joy’s loving grandmother Mimi (played by Diane Ladd). From that sweet opening, cinemagoers are assailed by a frenetic pace set by camera work that seem to zip and editing that jump faster than the story actually moves. The choice of songs to pepper the action, like Elvis’s A Little Less Conversation, doesn’t add anything to the storytelling.

So, instead of a steady unfolding of a strong woman’s rise to success, we get this jumble of characters called her family comprising two intelligent children, a soap-opera obsessed mother, Terry (Virginia Madsen), her ex-husband (Édgar Ramírez) who hasn’t moved out of the basement and her divorced dad (Robert De Niro).

If that’s not enough to stir the pot, there is the jealous stepsister (Elisabeth Rohm) and dad’s devilish new companion (Isabella Rossellini).

The mum, Terry, lives for her soap-opera times, which (according to the production notes) is a fake one that director Russell has created with real-life soap opera stars.

This TV life is so real that Joy dreams that she is one herself!

It is a chaotic life portrayed and not very true, I do believe, to the one led by the real-life Joy. But, as a movie, it is in-your-face action with people who don’t seem to stop talking, that dresses up a rags-to-riches story of an inventive housewife.

Joy as always been an inventor – since young. As an adult, with all these needy people around her, she suddenly remembers her talent and comes up with a new mop – the self-wringing kind.

She decides she is going to make it. So, she makes a presentation to her father and his new friend. The result eventually sees her making her home-network channel debut, helped by Neil Walker (Bradley Cooper).

But the ride to get there is sometimes unnerving, including the scene where her dad tells her it’s his fault for making her think she can be more than just a housewife. Phew!

From her miracle mop in the 1990s, the real Joy Mangano is still inventing things. She holds more than 100 patents for her inventions. As of 2015, Mangano’s net worth is reportedly around US$50 million.

You won’t get this from the movie. You won’t get the woman or her genius. Joy is a serious comedy of a biopic.

While Lawrence is quite beautiful in this movie, right down to her aviator shades, does the movie leave you inspired to be your best, as real biopics always do, like in Erin Brokovich?

No. Despite being “inspired by true stories of daring women” as the opening remark states, Joy is what it is – mere entertainment. Is worth your combo popcorn? Yes, just once.

** This review appeared in the New Straits Times.

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