Mangano family is the most bizarre mixture of people: Joy keeps on arguing with her ex-husband and father, helps out her soap-opera-loving careless mother and takes care of two kids. And in the meantime, she makes an invention that transforms her life.

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Always inventive, Joy looks for the way to make her life, overloaded with taking care of others, smoother – and she comes up with the invention that puts her on the junction between success and financial doom. The new film from David O. Russell, featuring his favourite squad of Lawrence, Cooper and De Niro, is intensely entertaining – though it operates with narration so extraordinary for a blockbuster at times.

We know the story – because which one of us wasn’t once told that we’re meant to shake the universe? She was no different; when she was little, her grandma told her that she was meant to do special things. And that wasn’t just a random, cheerful remark to keep her beloved grandchild’s hopes for future up: her nan saw a little creative girl who needed to be pushed out of her comfort zone. Joy Magnano, the lady who started as a kid with paper cut-outs serving as tale-telling props and came up with the idea of the Magic Mop years after, turns out to be one of the hottest inspirations of Oscar season. Although a biopic about a lady who innovated the mop might not sound very compelling at the beginning, the cast, script and production slightly redefine the idea of a film inspired by a real person. With mixed points of view, a sweet “never give up” message and a strong inclination to empower with “I don’t need a prince”, or “I am a hard-working entity on my own” kind of moments – especially because the films is claimed to be inspired by the stories of daring women – it is worth watching even for a burst of motivation. Isn’t it that others have it worse?
As Neil (played by Bradley Cooper who appears in the film briefly) mentions, the ordinary becomes extraordinary, and it doesn’t take much on the shopping TV channel – but besides the glamorous stories that everybody admires, we get to know the real price of success: both financial and emotional.
It’s not just about the serious business and motivational catchwords – the film doesn’t lack hilarious scenes at all. Robert De Niro seems to be on top of his comedy momentum in 2015, with The Intern just a few weeks ago – and he builds a funny character in Joy, too. An indecisive conformist who doesn’t believe in her daughter shines in the scenes with his new partner Trudy (Isabella Rossellini) and Joy’s ex-husband Tony (Edgar Ramirez). Similarly, Virginia Madsen nails it as socially-awkward lady bound to the reality of a small screen in front of her. Such a character could accumulate pity from the empathetic audience who wildly cheer Joy’s likeable character on. What’s more, badly played, it would be a sad obstacle, an antagonist – instead, she created a character who is superbly amusing. Scenes from soap operas which she watches were recreated in the manner of Dynasty: the extravagant costumes and over-the-top hair portraying the fictionalised life of the upper crust are used as a side storytelling device for the main story and include some uproariously stiff moments that everyone has seen at least once or twice on the fly. And towards the end, you can’t help the feeling that Russell’s entire film had a goal of parodying that well-known, simple soap opera convention, too, with all these twists and turns.
Besides American soaps and Dragons-Den-in-the-garage moments that are there to entertain, Jennifer Lawrence wraps the entire film together with a bewitching, inspiring, strong character just like her creation, Joy, loops the cotton for her one-in-a-kind mop. The protagonist is not afraid to show what she’s worth and fights for what she thinks she deserves, and the American Academy Award winner grasps the subtleties of her personality – firstly, a woman made of platinum but also an unstable, tired, vulnerable creator with artist-like mission of making the world better starting with what she knows best: the household.
Due to storytelling mediums, the mock-biopic gets a bit unreal at times. Narration is led by Joy’s grandma, who is very often silenced; Joy’s dreams of being a key character in a popular soap mix are entangled with real-life events, and some scenes – especially those including a one-man, or one-woman for that matter, parade, lots of snow, the sun, and a pair of oversized shades – merge into a feeling of surreal trip. While it is difficult to follow at times, it’s also what makes a film about the self-wringing mop inventor something more than just a tale of a self-made woman working her way up.

Joy opened in the UK on the 1st of January.

Kasia Kwasniewska

Editor in Chief

Loves reading, watching films, eyeing (and producing) good design, listening to music and stuffing her face with chocolate whenever the opportunity arises. Cooks from time to time, and drinks far too much coffee to be a normal human being. Liked my work? Buy me a coffee!

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