Posts Tagged Oprah Winfrey

Joy – Movie Review

Directed by David O Russell, Joy is loosely based on the life of Joy Mangano, an American inventor, businesswoman, and an entrepreneur, with over a hundred patents to her name. Jennifer Lawrence is fabulous in the role of Joy.

As a little girl, Joy liked to make things and had big dreams.  Her grandmother Mimi (Diane Ladd) believed in Joy’s hidden talents but somewhere along the way however, Joy’s life got derailed.  This is a sad saga that is often repeated where parents get divorced and the trajectory of a child’s life changes.  Joy’s supposedly promising early life is squandered on taking care of her divorced mother (Verginia Madsen), who lies in her bed all day watching soap operas, and her father (Robert De Niro), who changes girl friends more frequently than his shabby clothes, and her two infant children.  Her husband (Edgar Ramirez) also hangs out in the basement of her old rickety house.  

Joy’s inspiring story line is somewhat marred by incoherent narration and poorly displayed and unresolved interpersonal family conflicts.  Film’s most interesting material centers around Joy’s invention of her highly absorbent, self-wringing, washable “miracle mop”, followed by her struggle to scale.  During formative years, Joy’s largely absentee father, Rudy, helps her get seed money for her project from his new rich girlfriend, Trudy (Isabella Rossellini) and along with her sinister half sister, Peggy (Elizabeth Rohm), appear to help her in her business endeavors.  But their motives seem to be more complex and self-serving.  The family scenes appear jumpy, somewhat random and do not adequately emphasize everything Joy had to overcome and how she did it.  (It could so because some of these scenes were added and some information changed when the story moved in the hands of David O. Russell from Annie Mumolo, and the focus changed from an entirely biopic story to a more emotional, all-encompassing saga).

Joy’s initial attempt to sell her invention through QVC (Quality, Value, Convenience), flops and she enlists the help of Neil Walker (Bradley Cooper) who introduces her to the emerging concept of marketing through television.  Joy herself appears in front of the camera to make her own pitch and soon her miracle mop was selling by thousands.  She faces some serious struggles along the way, which almost brought her to bankruptcy, including dealing with patent infringement issues.  Her resolve, persistence, and creativity carry her through the storm and by the end of the film, Joy is sitting in the head honcho chair, making decisions.

The story of a woman who was selling $10M worth of Miracle Mops a year in ten years after launch (as per Wikipedia), who invented HSN’s best selling product (by 2010), the “Huggable Hangers”, that were endorsed by Oprah Winfrey; story of a woman who invented “Forever Fragrant”, “Performance Platform”,  “Clothes it all luggage system” and other awesome stuff, just fails to be what it should be, an epic saga of inspiration, entrepreneurship, and creativity.  If not as inspiring as it could be, Joy is still an interesting and informative movie and if you some research on Wiki, you will find all the inspiring stuff on this entrepreneurial woman who ended up as President of Ingenious Designs, LLC that was later bought by US TV shopping channel, HSN (Home Shopping Network).  She remains HSN’s most successful sellers, with annual sales topping $150M.  If seemingly having holes, the film is still a rich tapestry of Joy’s life.  I rate Joy as 4.8 on a 1 to 5 scale with 5 being “excellent”.  


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“Lee Daniels’ The Butler” – Movie Review

“The law was against us” and “I was hungry all the time”.  Thus begins the story of Cecil in 1957 Jim Crow era, as he is was leaving the cotton farm after his slave “negro” father was brutally shot and his mother went semi-crazy after being sexually assaulted and after seeing her husband shot down.  Cecil had learned to be a house slave and he was fortunate that he found a mentor who taught him to serve as a butler.  His mentor paved a way for Cecil to reach Washington DC, where Cecil found work in fine hotels and rose enough to be noticed by some important people and was finally offered a job at the White House.

The movie is partially based on a true story about the life of Eugene Allen, about whom an article was first written in The Washington Post by Wil Haygood.  The script for the movie was later written by Danny Strong and is based on a composite sketch from interviews with several White House staff members.  Director Lee Daniels’ The Butler, tells the story of Cecil, who served as a Butler during the tenure of eight  American presidents, over three decades.  Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey give absolutely brilliant and riveting performance as Cecil and Gloria Gaines. OMG – Oprah Winfrey is one amazing character actress! David Oyelowo and Elijah Kelly are fantastic in the roles of their sons, Louis and Charlie.  (A side note, the best line in the movie comes from Charlie “Daddy, I like Sidney Poitier”, a simple line that shows that someone has to smooth out the ruffled feathers during family conflict.  Lee Daniels’ The Butler can boast of some significant star power.  Robin Williams stars as president Dwight Eisenhower, John Cusack as Richard Nixon, Alan Rickman as Ronald Reagan, James Marsden as John F. Kennedy, Live Schreiber as Lyndon B. Johnson.  Other well knows stars include Jane Fonda as Nancy Reagan, Alex Pettyfer (in the role of the rapist), Mariah Carey (role of Cecli’s mother), David Banner (as his father), Vanessa Redgrave (as the lady of the plantation), Yaya Alafia (as Louis’ girlfriend), Aml Ameen (as young Cecil), Nelsan Ellis (as MLK) and there are others.

The story crisscrosses the country’s civil rights struggle along with one family’s personal struggles, disagreements and gut wrenching decisions, and the bond of love that transcends it all. Cecil started his job at the White House, with simple instructions, “never listen or react to the conversations” because, it was further explained, “We have no tolerance for politics at the White House”!  “You hear nothing, you see nothing, you only serve”, he was told.  However, his job allowed him a frequent up-close window into the presidential history, unfolding right in front of him.  And while serving, he heard them all; he heard discussions to end the Korean War; he was privy to the tenure of President Kennedy, standing “on the edge of the New Frontier of the 1060s, a frontier of unknown opportunities and perils, a frontier of unfilled hopes and threats”.   Cecil was preview to the gut wrenching ending of the Kennedy term, with President Kennedy’s assassination; and he witnessed President Johnson’s challenge and victory in getting Congress to adopt a far-reaching civil-rights bill, and passing a voting-right bill, among other accomplishments.  Cecil was witness to the constitutional amendment to ban school busing for racial balance, during the Nixon term, which was a setback to the civil right momentum of the Kennedy-Johnson years.   Cecil felt disturbed when President Reagan, who had been extremely good to him personally, promised his advisors to “veto any sanctions against South Africa”.  Cecil later retried during the Reagan Presidency.

The Butler, often called the White House Forrest Gump, offers, in addition to the multi decade narrative of one man’s perception of the American cultural history, a story of his and his family’s very personal struggle.  It gives an appreciation for the enormous toll on people when society decides they are just a little bit less than others.  At the start of the civil rights struggle, Cecil was merely trying to live an ordinary life, create a little oasis of comfort, and impart a simple lesson to his two sons, “We got two faces, us, and the one we show to the white people”.  His son Louis however, aspired to change the world, and his younger son wanted to serve the nation, by joining the army.  Gloria, his wife, was pulled by conflicting aspirations of her family, and often doused her worries with drinking and smoking.  When Louis, with his girlfriend Carol, joined the extremist Black Panther Party, Cecil did not want anything to do with his son.  However, by the time Dr. King was assassinated, he acknowledged that “the world was changing and I didn’t know where I fit in”.  Eventually, Cecil came to see the aspirations of his children and the concern of his wife, from a fresh new perspective and says in the end, “America’s always turned a blind eye toward what we’ve done to our own”. 

This is a fantastic movie.  Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey’s performance is truly stellar.  There isn’t sloppy performance from anyone of the huge cast nor is there a dialog that seems out of place, in the long history of events.  I give it a rating of 5 out of 5.

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