Joy Parent Review

By portraying Joy as a caricature and making all men appear overly weak, this movie sacrifices the strength of Magano's true tale of triumph for melodrama.

Overall B

A single mom's struggles to become finically independent because of family challenges and poor business advice. This movie is based on the life of inventor and entrepreneur Joy Mangano.

Violence B-
Sexual Content A-
Profanity C-
Substance Use C

Joy is rated PG-13 for brief strong language.

Movie Review

“Each of us has a dream about what our life will be like,” says Mimi (Diane Ladd) to her granddaughter Joy (Isabella Crovetti-Cramp). But as the young girl grows into womanhood (now played by Jennifer Lawrence), it appears that she has not realized many of her childhood fantasies – and the same could be said for most of her relatives.

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Despite Mimi’s predictions of Joy being smart, going to school, meeting a fine young man, having beautiful children and building a wonderful world for herself, she is forced to sacrifice further education because of a family crisis. Her marriage ends in divorce and she is left trying to raise two young children while working a menial job. While struggling to pay the mortgage on her ramshackled house, Joy also gives shelter to the elderly Mimi, her dysfunctional mother (Virginia Madsen) and her unemployed ex-husband (Édgar Ramírez). And just when she thinks her burden couldn’t be heavier or her home more crowded, her father (Robert De Niro) gets kicked out of his girlfriend’s house and shows up looking for a place to stay.

At about this point, Joy awakens from the nightmare of he existence and decides she needs to change things. A way out occurs to her while she is cleaning up a broken cup of wine, and cuts her hands on some shards of glass caught in the strands of a rag mop. Remembering her former desire to create things, Joy comes up with an idea of how to make a self-wringing mop. With a little marketing, she believes her invention could change the clan’s fortune.

However, it is too big of an enterprise to do alone, so everyone gets in on the venture, including her Dad, his new romantic interest (Isabella Rossellini) and her money, along with her jaded stepsister (Elisabeth Röhm) and her overly-involved ex. Eventually she meets Neil (Bradley Cooper) who has connections with a large department store chain and an up-and-coming TV shopping channel. But Joy soon fears her big break might just break her, as her goals become encumbered by individual agendas, differing opinions, naïve faith and old family feuds.

The movie Joy is based on the real life of Joy Mangano, a very successful inventor and entrepreneur. Her story, as told here, is put together like a mosaic of smaller scenes narrated by Mimi. It features a cast of quirky characters—some so exaggerated they seem unbelievable. This is especially the case with her flaky, featherheaded father—perhaps this is because he is played by Robert De Niro, an actor we have become accustomed to seeing as a serious, capable man. Even the role of Joy comes across like a caricature, as the screenplay has her vacillating between portraying a venerable, blindly following female and a courageous, confident business contender. Certainly there is no question that this productions is a plug for girl power (hence all the men appear weak and the poor boy playing Joy’s son gets almost no screen time), yet emphasizing this strength comes at the sacrifice of presenting Mangano’s true tale of triumph in a way that the audience can either appreciate or understand.

Fortunately, the film offers little in the way of concerning content, with the exception of one sexual expletive and some mild domestic conflicts. Yet its artsy approach turns a hoped-for biopic into a melodrama. This treatment feels like a disappointing way to paint the picture of a woman who has captured the American Dream and overshadows the example of her tenacious spirit.

Directed by David O. Russell. Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro, Édgar Ramírez. Running time: 124 minutes. Theatrical release December 25, 2015. Updated

Get details on profanity, sex and violence in Joy here.

Joy Parents Guide

When Joy is portrayed as a young girl, she says she doesn’t need a handsome prince in her story. What does this statement foreshadow? In what ways are many of the male characters in the story undependable? Except for Joy, most of the female characters are also incompetent too. In what ways does she manage them? How does she eventually take control of her whole clan? How does the script’s focus on Joy’s daughter (Aundrea Gadsby) overshadow the character of her son? How does the decision to make him such a minor character play into the strong matriarchal theme of the movie?

How do you feel about the portrayal of the various family members’ personal problems? Do they seem realistic or exaggerated? Why do you think Joy feels like she needs to rescue each of them? Should she? How does responsibility affect her personal dreams and goals? What causes are worth sacrificing for, and which aren’t? How can you tell the difference?

More About the Movie:
This movie recounts the success story of entrepreneur Joy Mangano.

Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence also star together in Serena, The Silver Linings Playbook, and American Hustle.

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