It’s a chilly, gray December morning in the Long Island, New York, hamlet of St. James, and against a lifetime of advice from my mother, I’m getting into a stranger’s car. His name is Paul, he told me when I sat next to him at the greasy-spoon B.L.T. Cafe, and he has kids my age. Comfortingly, when he offers to give me a ride to Joy Mangano’s house, the girls behind the counter assure me he’s a regular who won’t kill me.
Paul knows Mangano invented the Miracle Mop and is a multimillionaire mogul appearing regularly on the Home Shopping Network. (“My wife had an intimate relationship with her,” he gripes. “She never met her in her life.”) But he’s unaware that Jennifer Lawrence (“Wait, from The Hunger Games?”) is playing a character loosely based on his neighbor Mangano in David O. Russell’s new joint,Joy, opening Christmas Day.
This is typical: Like soap opera actors or country music stars, people are either obsessed with Mangano or have never heard of her. That’s about to change withJoy, the Cinderella story of how a once-broke, divorced mother of three in 1990 invented the first self-wringing Miracle Mop, remortgaged her home to help fund it, manufactured it out of her father’s (Robert De Niro) auto body shop, and convinced a fictional QVC exec (Bradley Cooper) to give her a shot.
Mangano has quite literally cleaned up, ascending to the top of a $1 billionempire on HSN ($3 billion in her career to date) with genius housewife hacks, like the space-saving Huggable Hangers (700 million and counting sold) and the travel-size My Little Steamer. Still, some early reviews question whether Mangano’s odyssey—and Russell’s first movie with a female protagonist—is Hollywood enough. “Russell’s films are filled with seekers and strivers and lovable misfits,” wrote Entertainment Weekly. “Even for them . . . a movie about a mop might feel a little quixotic.”
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