Directed by David O. Russell
2015 Comedy Drama Biography
2 hours, 4 minutes
From 20th Century Fox
Yes, this is about Joy Mangano who hawked her Miracle Mop on the early QVC and made a mint but not, of course, before she was ready to pull her hair out from all the deceit and treachery from her family and the movers and shakers out there in the business world. If you're looking to do the same with your product, you might want to catch this movie first.
If you're not looking to hawk your own product, this may not be the movie for you, unless you're a big Jennifer Lawrence fan (and I am). She was the reason I wanted to see it but frankly, I wondered whether this would be worth my time.
I regard Lawrence as one of the finest actresses of her generation... real, gutsy, so imaginative. On the thespian plane, she is always poised for takeoff. This is her third pairing with director Russell (Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle are the first two) and one wonders what these two have going on professionally that makes them want to work with one another again and again. Both appear to like stories that deal with dysfunction and the resilience to work around it. I sense, too, that both want Lawrence's characters to appear as strong people rather than strong women.
This is also Russell's third movie with Bradley Cooper and Robert DeNiro... both were also in Playbook and Hustle. Russell has not always had great success with his casts... he had rather publicized skirmishes with Lily Tomlin and George Clooney. But with Lawrence, Cooper and DeNiro, there is the feel of a repertory company where all participants understand one another so well and work together in harmony. Obviously the trust is there in spades. For the record, Lawrence and Cooper also made Serena.
Joy is portrayed as a tenacious young divorced mother who has long been an inventor and always had a great entrepreneurial spirit. She lives a rather hardscrabble life in a home she owns but shares with several. She has her two children. There's her beloved grandmother (Ladd) who has instilled in her since childhood the notion that she can become anything she wants. Her divorced mother (Madsen), rarely gets out of bed, preferring to hide from the world by losing herself in soap operas. In the basement is Joy's ex-husband (Ramirez) who wants her to reach her dreams while he pursues a musical career. And he is joined in the basement by her father (DeNiro) who has just been thrown out of the house by his girlfriend and the two men very much dislike one another.
If this isn't enough, there's Joy's half sister (Rohm) in and out of the house making a general pest of herself. Finally there's the father's well-to-do new girlfriend (Rossellini) who is persuaded to fund Joy's new mop product.
The first part of the film, focusing on this complicated family, is played frequently through comedy and in my opinion is the most interesting part. If this hadn't been based on a true story, I would have looked forward to learning more about all family members and focused on that rather than completely changing the tone of the film's second half by getting into dramatic business dealings. Or one could have had a full film on the business of selling the mop, which, if it had been expanded and the family story cut out, might also have been more interesting. But the meshing of the two and the decided change in tone of the film just didn't work for me. You may pay it no mind.
On the up side is the good feeling I seem to get with entrepreneurial stories. They get me going somehow... perhaps it's the cheerleading I feel for an ordinary person out to do extraordinary things.
Cooper is introduced to the film halfway through as the head of QVC. Audiences are likely to feel a little needed emotion as he and Lawrence jockey for position of how things are going to go on air but a general lack of emotion in the second half is where I think that section went wrong. We need to root more for her and we certainly need to see her get a bit more charged up than she does when things go wrong. I also felt at times I was viewing a business seminar more than watching a movie.
Ladd does double-duty as the narrator and it was somewhat annoying and not needed at all. More vexing was actually watching the soap opera scenes along with Madsen. Soap queens Susan Lucci and Donna Mills were featured in a couple of segments that were way too long and too much a waste of time. Melissa Rivers, on the other hand, was spot-on as her mother, the QVC queen, Joan.
Despite good performances from the entire cast (along with Lawrence, I most enjoyed Rossellini), this is, at best, an average film that will certainly suffer some as it is coming out at this time of the year with all those big Oscar contenders.
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