Why Is The True Story of David O. Russell’s Joy Such a Mystery?
Jennifer Lawrence will play Robert De Niro’s mother in next David O. Russell movie.
After a segue into the world of 1970s shysters in American Hustle, writer-director David O Russell returns to the more familiar ground of familial tensions in this drama, inspired by the life of Miracle Mop inventor Joy Mangano. Like Russell’s much-loved The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook, Joy deals with dysfunction and dreams delayed or denied by obligations and unreasonable behaviour. One in particular.” That particular woman is Joy Mangano: single mother, millionaire entrepreneur, an executive producer on the film Joy, and “queen of HSN”—and the details of her life’s big-screen adaptation are almost as mysterious as the woman herself. Once her high school valedictorian, Joy’s (Jennifer Lawrence) entrepreneurial spirit was suppressed by her parents’ divorce and her own whirlwind marriage to wannabe singer Tony (Edgar Ramirez).
Mangano is most famously known for her first product: the Miracle Mop, but she holds more than 100 patents for her inventions, including Huggable Hangers, the best-selling product in HSN history. I think that the more people give him crap about me being too young for his parts, he’s like, ‘Oh yeah, watch this’ – so we’ll see.” It’s difficult to set yourself against the incredible creative chemistry that exists between O.
Every waking moment was poured into devoting her life to others, whether it was doing her Dad’s (Robert De Niro) taxes or fixing the plumbing for her TV soap-addicted mother (Virginia Madsen). Mangano has been the face of the network ever since, and in her 15th year, she remains one of HSN’s most successful sellers, with annual sales topping $150 million. She’s been named Long Island Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst & Young, and has twice been honored for her accomplishments in Fast Company rankings of creatives and women in business. And considering it’s reflective of wider Hollywood trends in which roles for older actresses become increasingly limited, there does exist an uncomfortable element to O.
As of 2015, Mangano’s net worth is reportedly around $50 million—yet, for all her incredible success, there’s precious little additional information to be found about her. And those articles that do detail her rise to fame are virtually identical, name-dropping all the same inventions, sales numbers, awards, and career milestones you see above. Co-written with Bridesmaids screenwriter Annie Mumolo, Russell’s film evokes memories of the likes of Nurse Betty or The Royal Tenenbaums with its slightly surreal tone and quirky characters.
Considering the kind of harmonious cinematic family they’ve become, maybe this kind of special effects wizardry is exactly what’s needed to keep their filmmaking fresh, considering Lawrence has stated she’d like to work with the director until he dies. The framing voice-over, by Joy’s grandmother Mimi (Diane Ladd), seems unnecessary, while the ending feels somewhat rushed, despite being ultimately satisfying.
Where it works best is in the examination of the rise of television shopping channels and predicting our current era of “reality” television, as well as Joy’s determination to not be bowed and cowed by those out to thwart or fleece her. Those who felt frustrated by her character’s ultimate blandness in The Hunger Games finale, will be delighted to see her given full reign to run the gamut of emotions here. Mangano then struggled to pay the bills working as an airline-reservations manager and waitress while living with her kids in a two-bedroom ranch house in Smithtown, Long Island.
Of the 36 books he’s written for the biography’s publisher, BookCaps—which specializes in pieces that highlight a lesser-known or sometimes forgotten life—he says Mangano’s story is one of the most challenging jobs he’s taken on. “It was extremely hard to find information, particularly about Joy’s early life,” says Mason. “I had a lot of difficulty filling in gaps, because most of what’s available is about her shopping-channel career and what she chooses to release in interviews. The film is definitely a very rich tapestry, and all those threads come from some places in Joy’s real story and some places that came out of his imagination and other places that he just picked up along the way of his life.” Just a few examples of O.
Joy’s best friend takes on the name of Mangano’s youngest daughter, Jackie; in real life, her best friend’s name is Ronnie, though she did call in during Joy’s first live QVC appearance, as Jackie does in the film. Bradley Cooper’s character of Neil Walker—a QVC executive who’s likely an amalgam of founder Joseph Segel and his early executives—asks Joy to create 50,000 mops in a week; in reality, that number was 1,000. According to Gabler, it began when Joy and America’s Next Top Model producer Ken Mok convinced Mangano—one of his close friends—to bring her life story to the big screen, with the help of Davis Entertainment head John Davis and his associate John Fox. The trio took the idea to Gabler at Fox 2000, who told them to run with it—and they eventually landed on Bridesmaids co-writer Annie Mumolo to write the treatment in 2012. When Mumolo delivered the script in 2013, it was, “pretty much along the lines of a biopic,” Gabler says. “But she has a kind of comedic style of writing, that was more the tone.” Tone aside, executives thought the story needed more depth. “While it was really funny and had some wonderful scenes in it,” says Gabler, “I felt like it needed to be much more about Joy’s journey, not just about the creation of the mop and all the details that were involved with the mop.
Regarding the WGA arbitration, Gabler says, “It’s extremely significant that he did get sole [screenplay] credit, and the reason is because he didn’t rewrite her screenplay. But their interpretation is completely David’s original.” Gabler says Mangano is “excited” about all the fictionalization; she attended the film’s premiere on December 13 and posed for photos with Lawrence. The magic trick of Joy lies in the fact that—even as the namesake inspiration of the film’s central character—Mangano’s actual true story remains hidden, possibly in plain sight.
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