As a kid, I remember watching movies about the men who invented revolutionary devices that changed everyday life for the better. Mickey Rooney was “Young Tom Edison,” Spencer Tracy was “Edison, the Man,” and long before he was Mortimer Duke, Don Ameche was “Alexander Graham Bell.”
Then, there’s Joy Mangano, who in 1990, created the “Miracle Mop.”
To fans of QVC and HSN, Mangano’s is a familiar name. The inventor and entrepreneur has more than 100 patents for handy items like skinny velvet hangers. Kudos to her, but is there substance enough in her story for a movie?
Under less capable hands, certainly not. But writer/director David O. Russell — riding a pair of back-to-back critical favorites starring the trio of Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro (“Silver Linings Playbook,” “American Hustle”) — transforms what might otherwise be a direct-to-Lifetime-channel flick.
Lawrence is the eponymous “Joy,” a single mom reliably connected to her struggling, fractured and atrophied extended family, which revolves around, and desperately relies on, father De Niro’s body shop.
Narrated by her grandmother (Diane Ladd), “Joy,” we’re told, was destined for greatness. Now, I’m pretty sure everyone’s nana told them the same at one time or another. Salk heard this and created a polio vaccine; Fleming took the encouragement and went on to discover penicillin. Joy found a way to clean spilled red wine without cutting her hands on broken shards of glass. In other words, at first glance, this is an easily dismissed premise.
But Lawrence makes more of Joy than just a gadget hawker. Her inventor is indomitable, developing necessary business acumen as she goes along from her first meeting with an executive (Cooper) at the nascent cable shopping network until she confronts a Texas businessman trying to wring (ouch!) mop profits from her.
A lively soundtrack keeps things fresh, too (most memorable is the samba version of Three Dog Night’s “Mama Told Me Not To Come,” which should get more play).
This one’s not the collaboration the billing would have you believe. Cooper’s role is miniscule and De Niro’s is only slightly more significant. J.Law is “Joy,” she carries the entire film, and it’s handily one of her best performances.
A pleasant little movie that surprised me. I am not as optimistic about the upcoming biopic on the inventor of the Ginsu knife.