Faith Reels: ‘Joy’ … courage writ large

by Bonnie Anderson and Dan Webster


Jennifer Lawrence as Joy Mangano, is accompanied by some of her “sidekicks” Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro in a true-story film about an aspiring inventor of the most usual kind- a woman with a good idea born from her life experience, but without knowledge about how to take it to the next step.


We see a hard-working single parent, kind-hearted to a fault, a family who loves her – who take advantage of her. They all live together under the same roof, even her ex-husband, who shares the basement with Rudy Mangano (De Niro), Joy’s father.


The film and Joy’s invention, the Miracle Mop, is a bit slow in revving up until Trudy (Isabella Rossellini) enters as Rudy’s new girlfriend. Joy and the Mop get a chance at a spot on the Home Shopping Network and a family business dynasty struggles to be born.   Family dynamics can be funny, if they belong to someone else. This film is a glimpse into some very funny and sometimes heartbreaking family dynamics.  A bit stressful to watch, lots of people often talking at once, failure and success riding an emotional roller coaster together and some pretty tough judgments made by family members.


As we look deeper though, we see that this film is basically about courage. Joy won’t let go, and that is where we are hooked in this film. Each of us has a story about when we first stood up for something that really mattered. Perhaps we spoke up on behalf of another person; perhaps we confronted a system; perhaps we told an unpopular truth; perhaps, like Joy, we pushed on when all the odds were against us, with unnoticed perseverance under stifling circumstances.


C.S. Lewis reminds us, “Courage is not simply one of the virtues but the form of every virtue at the testing point.”


Courage animates all our virtues: honesty, confidence, humility, compassion, integrity, valor. Without courage, all these virtues lie dormant. When we don’t “exercise” our courage, like an unused muscle our courage is weakened, becomes dormant, and slowly recedes. If we aren’t regularly courageous our courage dries up and becomes only a memory of how we used to be.


‘Joy’ is a “New Year” film, inspirational to each of us as we look inside ourselves to determine how we can make this world better and realistically explore what kind of courage it will take from each of us to do so. It’s time.


Bonnie Anderson is a very active lay leader in her parish, diocese and in the wider Episcopal Church. She is an experienced community organizer and lives in suburban Detroit. Dan Webster is an Episcopal priest in Baltimore, Maryland and a former broadcast news executive. But don’t expect only east coast urban perspectives here. As it turns out, they both grew up in Southern California.  They blog about films and faith at Faith Reels

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