Joy

Director: David O. Russell (2016)

With sparkly charisma and a bucketful of talent, Jennifer Lawrence polishes her acting credentials in this dynamic biopic of a mop making entrepreneur.

Lawrence teams up again with writer/director David O Russell for whose Silver Linings Playbook (2012) she won the best actress Oscar.

I wouldn’t bet against her being nominated a third time for this slick, smart, sweet and sour slice of the American Dream.

Along with American Hustle (2014) this is the third consecutive time Lawrence has appeared in a Russell film with Robert De Niro and Bradley Cooper.

It’s Cooper’s fourth collaboration with Lawrence including the non-Russell directed Serena (2014).

Despite being one of a select few who saw Silver Linings Playbook and wasn’t bowled over, I can’t deny Russell brought out the best in his cast and does so again here.

Which for fans of De Niro can only be a good thing.

Lawrence stars as hard working single mum Joy Mangano.

In a chaotic living arrangement, Joy’s ex-husband shares the basement with her father, she is at odds with her half-sister and is the prime carer for her depressed mother Terry.

The outrageous story lines of the TV soaps Terry watches all day provide a fictional extreme and help us believe Joy’s barely credible life story.

Inventive from an early age, Joy’s exasperation at the quality of kitchen mops on the market leads her to build and try to sell a mop of her own design.

But being an utter novice in the world of business she struggles with bad advice, dodgy contracts, legal disputes, ever increasing debt and zero sales.

A potential saviour appears in the handsome form of Cooper’s Neil Walker.

The softly spoken and messianic head of the QVC channel sees commercial potential in her mop.

Such is the innate on screen chemistry between the two performers it’s almost impossible for them not to suggest a romantic attraction.

Russell keeps his camera walking and his cast talking in his typical caffeinated style, pushed along by a soundtrack of familiar pop and rock tunes.

And he comments on the corrupting  power of commerce by slyly riffing on scenes from gangster epic The Godfather (1972).

To underline this, De Niro appears as Joy’s auto shop owning father Rudy.

Working from his own screenplay, the director is at least as interested in the combustible chemistry of the characters as he is in Joy’s remarkable story.

Regardless of age, race or status, Russell just wants to let them loose them on the screen and see how they react.

From Diane Ladd’s grandmother to Isabella Rossellini’s investor, Dascha Polanco as Joy’s best friend to Melissa Rivers as her own mother, the comedienne Joan Rivers, this is a story filled with interesting women.

But none of them can outshine Lawrence.

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