‘Joy’: The Movie

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Image result for joy movie poster

I fell in love with Jennifer Lawrence – JLaw - way before she became the easily likable global superstar that she has become. But the first time I saw ‘Joy’, I neither liked JLaw in it, nor the movie. I was asleep halfway through, and grudgingly 'watched' it till the end.

Maybe it’s something about, long distance journeys, having all the time in the world to be 'reflective' and finding a certain 'deepness' even in the most mundane things. But when I saw ‘Joy’ again last week, all I could literally see were the stories behind the main story.

It is the true life story of Joy Mangano who rose to build her empire through the most unanticipated circumstances, and created an unexpected good life for herself and her family. Quite unexpectedly, Joy’s story is told through the eyes of her grandmother.

JLaw as Joy was a good casting call. Similar to JLaw’s persona, the character ‘Joy’ has a calm strength to her personality, who is both naive child and wise sage at the same time. JLaw is able to convey the character's continuous struggle to please everyone else without adequate attention to herself. That is, until the moment she realises that her first priority should be none other than herself.

The character ensemble is a strong one. I was pleased that Robert Deniro, while adding spark to the movie, was not allowed to overshadow the other members of the cast. But I wished her 'batty' mother had been given some more lines; her crazed tantrums were an absolute delight.

(Although… other than the sheer awesomeness of his beautiful, beautiful eyes, I’m not exactly sure of the usefulness of Bradley Cooper’s character)

Beyond the movie however, is the myriad of lessons from its the sub-stories, which totally justified the movie’s in-depth appeal.

A little girl's broken dreams

The movie begins by showing Joy as a young girl with dreams of being an inventor. As a child, she is seen constantly 'inventing' things, most of which she has no idea what they are.

Literally and symbolically, her dreams of being an inventor are shattered when her parents get divorced, and destroy her 'box' of inventions, during a fight while moving her things.

As an adult, the sheer realities of life dissipate whatever else childhood fantasies she had, as she is overwhelmed with motherhood and caring for everyone else around her. (Beautifully, she does not bear the burden of bitterness and discontent that the memories of broken dreams leave behind)

‘Joy’ is in almost every one of us humans… with so many childhood fantasies and dreams of what we hoped to achieve. It is alright if life does not exactly pan out the way we imagined, or hoped. Take each day in its stride, and catch each curveball life throws with a shrug of the shoulders.

It is alright.

From shards of glass come the greatest inspiration
Joy is in the yatch of her father’s female friend, who has invited his family for a cruise. Some glasses with wine break when the boat lurches, and Joy gets cuts all over her hand while mopping the stain off the floor of the boat. Joy wishes there was something with which she could mop up the floor, without cutting herself (the movie was set in the early ‘90s; there were no mops, as we know them). That thought births her first commercial invention.

Broken glasses cut us all the time. We can choose to either whine and complain about the wounds we are inflicted with, or we could open our minds to the possibilities which the lessons from the broken glasses can give us a real shot to achieve.

That they can't love you a certain way doesn't mean they don't love you
One of Joy’s worst nightmares was getting divorced, having seen what it did to her parents. And it came to pass.

To everyone's consternation, she still kept close relations with her ex-husband, and at some point, allowed him to temporarily live in her basement

(Her heart has to be made of gold. Mine is copper)

While pitching her business plan to a potential investor and family, everyone questioned her ex-husband’s presence. Her response was simple: "Because he’s my friend, and the father of my children".

So he might have been a crappy husband, thus leading to their divorce. But she knew him as a friend who’d always have her back, and share common interests in her well-doing: their children. And when it mattered most, he helped her get the big break she needed to move her business forward.

Moral: Not every relationship must turn out the way you wished it from the beginning. (I personally learnt this lesson this year)

Before torching it, give room to see if there’s something else the relationship may be suited for. Maybe the problem is neither of you. Maybe the problem is with the mutual interpretation of the relationship.

For example, not every kiss must end in "will you marry me". It is ok if it ends at just that: a kiss.

We could all use a little Joan: The best wing woman ever
Joy got her big break, to sell her invention on national television. And then, she froze.

Her window of opportunity - ten seconds at the most - was almost gone. If no call came through, her house would be sold by the bank, to no end. No call could come through: she was frozen.

Until a 'friendly' call came in. Her best friend since high school - Joan - called in to ask leading questions about the mop, thereby jerking ‘Joy’ right back to life, and causing her to receive over a hundred thousand orders via calls; calls which changed her life.

We could all do with our own wing person, in our corner. To jerk us back to reality when life overwhelms us.

Never be afraid to let in/accept help from your ‘Joan’, whomever she or he may be.

Business is Business. Deal with it.
Joy learnt a fundamental lesson; that for every time she encountered what seemed like a success, there would be sharks around the corner to snuff the lights out. For example, having invented the mop, she naively let someone else take the patent, and had to apply for bankruptcy.

Thankfully, the kid gloves came off. Joy learnt to seize her future in her own hands and refuse to let her business be the dumping ground for her family’s woes, or allow herself and her business continue to be the victim of fraud and embezzlement.

She learnt business the hard way: there’s no winning by playing ‘nice’ and being comfortable.
For as long as a person keeps in business with the naive expectation that the intrinsic good in man will be at the fore of business dealings, one should not be shocked at constant disappointments. There are no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ people in business. There are humans.

Deal with it, and protect your business.


I could go on and on about the movie. 'Joy' seemed to hold so many lessons at every turn; in every word said, every glance given, every emotion shared. Like I said, it could be the pressure in the cabin from long distance journeys.

Or maybe my mind is a little decluttered from being away from work, with all the time in the world for the community in my head to find 'wisdom' in the weirdest things.

Holiday is sweet.



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