The recent Jennifer Lawrence-starrer ‘Joy’ has already landed its leading lady her fourth Oscar nomination, and has garnered rave reviews for itself. But this fairy-tale-like biopic, based loosely on enigmatic entrepreneur Joy Mangano— the inventor of the ‘Miracle Mop’— has all the magic, as well as realism, to appeal to every woman who believes in walking the talk. Despite its several cinematic faults, ‘Joy’ is highly recommended for both its feisty appeal and tender poignancy.
The film goes about diluting several binaries and stereotypes that seem to have cemented in our imaginations. The eponymous protagonist Joy, a young divorced mother of three, plumbs, cooks, cleans, sweats and sweeps her way trying to make ends meet. But in her she embodies not just a beleaguered home-maker, but also an innovator and inventor tucked away somewhere in the recesses of childhood memory. After several toiling years, and a dangerously close shave with bankruptcy, Joy becomes a ‘home maker-entrepreneur’, creating what would famously be called, retailed and celebrated as the ‘Miracle Mop’— a self-wringing mop that you don’t have to touch to clean— born out of a home-maker’s dire need for a more convenient cleaning equipment, and her vision to help many like herself.
Not only an inventor, Joy became her own star salesman, demonstrating her product with panache on screen, on the QVC home-shopping network. The rest, as they say, is history, well-documented by director David O. Russell’s third collaboration with Lawrence. Joy Mangano, whose incredible story inspires this feel-good flick, went on to create about 100 patents in her name, and come up with several more products that would make the task of a home-maker easier by miles, such as ‘Huggable Hangers’ whose velvet linings prevent clothes from slipping off, and luggage systems with organisational features— aptly naming her enterprise as ‘Ingenious Designs, LLC’.
Just as much as it is a rousing tale about a woman who wins through pure hard work and ingenuity, it is also a story of those who try to pull her down and those who keep her buoyant- both happening to be strong women in their own rights. Peggy, Joy’s fictitious half-sister, claims to have several ideas of her own, but falls short of ever carrying them through and contends with trying to thwart the enterprising Joy. Their grandmother, on the other hand, remains silent most of the time, unless she has to remind the harried and often depressed Joy of the genius she holds within her. This is an aspect that appeals to most viewers, because the peer pressure several working women feel from other women, and how urgent the role of a female mentor then becomes.
Watch this movie, not expecting cinematic brilliance or a strictly accurate depiction of Joy Mangano’s meteoric rise; but for the sheer pleasure that lies in the story. Her’s is a story of wanting to break familial and social pigeon-holing— a story that pays tribute both the home-maker and entrepreneur, minus the romantic self-congratulatory note. Watch it for the ‘joy’ of laboured self-discovery, intuitive innovation, dealing handsomely with demands to be both boss and mommy, and the final richly-deserved fruits of success— which is the underrated and under-narrated story of every woman’s life.
By Swarnima Bhattacharya