Joy, a film directed by David O Russell, is loosely based on the life of Joy Mangano, a self-made millionaire from the selling of her patented household products. However where the film departs from real life is where the strength of this film resides.
The real-life Joy graduates from university in business and became an airlines reservation manager.
Our heroine is a battler who sacrificed college to look after her dysfunctional family; a struggling single mum in a lowly paid job as an airline booking clerk. Her life is shown in all its grim lower middle class American reality. Peeling paint, leaky plumbing she has to fix for want of the price of a plumber, the juggling of work and young children with family unfriendly shifts, under-employed dependents and the decaying backwater town with people earning a living rather than fulfilling the American dream.
A young girl's career aspirations and dreams of wonder and joy which, seventeen years later have been buried in the harsh reality of small town existence and are all but expunged.
David O Russell uses some clever filmic devices to impart this message such as memories awakened by a children's book and dream sequences.
He also plays tribute to a young woman's remarkable capacities; her extraordinary memory for facts, her determination, her quiet resolve to not let others (including family member) steam-roller her, and her remarkable ability to stay strong in the face of adversity while still remaining a caring mother and loyal family member.
This complex character is very ably played by Jennifer Lawrence and the other excellent role is her two-faced but charming and affectionate father, Rudi, played by Robert De Nero.
This film has received mixed or luke-warm reviews but I feel it deserves better ratings based on its insightful analysis of small-town America and the brutality of business which can use, chew up and spit out young hopeful but naïve entrepreneurs.
What is surprising is that this young ingénue ultimately succeeds in the cutthroat world of TV shopping despite the myriad of setbacks. But the clear message is that the odds are long that people on the wrong side of the tracks can make it big.
The American dream of fame and fortune remains that for most.