'Joy': Director David O. Russell melds fact and fiction again

Other directors may release historical dramas, but Russell's recent work has often seen him taking inspiration from real events and creating his own story. 'Joy' stars Jennifer Lawrence.

Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP
'Joy' is directed by David O. Russell.

“American Hustle” director David O. Russell returns with his newest film, “Joy,” which is now in theaters. 

The movie reunites Russell with “American Hustle” stars Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, and Robert De Niro. The actors have also worked with the director on such films as “American Hustle” and “Silver Linings Playbook.” 

The film stars Ms. Lawrence as Joy, a mother living with her ex-husband, children, and father, who invents a mopping product that propels her to success. Joy struggles to maintain her business and to take care of her family.

“Joy” also stars Isabella Rossellini, Édgar Ramírez, and Elisabeth Röhm.

The movie has Russell returning to treading the line between real events and fiction.

Some of Russell's movies are different – “Silver” was based on the book of the same name by Matthew Quick, and "Fighter” was based apparently fairly closely on the true story of boxer Micky Ward.

But the origins of the 2013 movie “American Hustle” were more in the vein of “inspired by” than “based on.” Elements of the plot of “Hustle” were recognizably based on Abscam, an FBI operation that ended with various members of the government being convicted of charges including bribery. (Those behind the movie noted this mix of life and story at the beginning of the movie, with text onscreen stating, “Some of this actually happened.”) 

With “Joy,” Lawrence’s character shares a name with Joy Mangano, the inventor of the Miracle Mop, the product that Lawrence’s character is shown creating (though apparently no one ever actually says “Miracle Mop”). In addition, Ms. Mangano is involved – she’s credited as an executive producer for the film.

But the movie appears to be more inspired by Mangano’s life than a straight adaptation of it, with the film often being described as being “loosely” based on Mangano’s story. 

Do these strategies result in a satisfying experience for the viewer? "Hustle," for example, was highly acclaimed, with the movie earning a nod for the Best Picture Oscar and stars Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, and Jennifer Lawrence all scoring Oscar nods in various acting categories. 

In addition, Russell and his co-writer Eric Warren Singer were nominated for their script work in the best original screenplay category for "Hustle." Audiences and critics may not care how much or little of a film is based on real life if the story in question is being skillfully presented.

“Joy” is just the newest example of Russell melding fact and fiction to create his own narrative.

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