'Joy': David O. Russell's Feminist Godfather

In the era of television, Susan Lucci reigns supreme. In Joy, David O. Russell's latest movie, the Mangano household, an alternate universe of domestic dysfunction, Joy's mom Terry has taken to bed, and to watching a soap with Lucci in the lead. A gun is an option for solving the soap's operatic greed. In Joy's story, life follows daytime drama. Joy's menagerie includes her mom Terry (Virginia Madsen), dad Rudy (Robert De Niro), half sister Peggy (Elisabeth Rohm), her ex (Edgar Ramirez) and her kids. She must provide. If a gun is on the table, she's going to pick it up, but it's just the business we're in. Keep your enemies close.

In the tradition of Preston Sturges, David O. Russell's special gift as writer/director is his generous and humane portrayal of blue collar America: The Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook, and American Hustle, to name his most recent forays into American psyches. What does Joy do? Following her childhood dreams, she invents the Miracle Mop, makes millions through marketing on television -- with Joan Rivers (Melissa Rivers) telling her to show her legs, and Joy still has to preside over a family of unique oddballs. A happy ending is not unambiguous: Can a woman have it all and maintain a warm heart? This dilemma, plucked from the truth, has surprises galore; a wacky mirror to the Zeitgeist, Joy's challenges make Joy one of the best movies of the year.

Cipriani 42nd Street was decked with comfy settees for the movie's premiere. Robert DeNiro held court in the rear. Bradley Cooper plays Neil, an enabler for Joy's efforts. Bradley Cooper's entourage included his The Elephant Man co-stars: Patricia Clarkson and Alessandro Nivola, with Emily Mortimer and their son Sam joining in the fun. And more:

Jimmy Jean-Louis, an actor from Haiti who was raised in Paris, plays a small but significant part. When Terry's television goes on the fritz, his character, Toussaint, comes to the rescue, saving more than Terry's television in a surprise twist, one of many delights. On the first day of shooting his part, Jimmy said, David got to thinking of where this bit could go and expanded his part, "so unexpected and just like life."

Terry is the remarkable Virginia Madsen playing against sexy type. When she was filming Sideways, director Alexander Payne introduced her to David O. Russell suggesting the two should work together. It took awhile. "Both of these directors have real compassion for people," said Madsen. "They don't judge. David lets an actor go deep into a character. I would follow him into a hurricane just to stand up in the eye with him."

"And Jennifer Lawrence," said Madsen, "So young and confident; she's the real deal and will go all the way like Jane Fonda." Jennifer Lawrence did not attend her own swank party, but the real Joy Mangano huddled together with Diane Ladd who plays Mimi, her grandmother and guardian angel, and the film's narrator from the grave.

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