Much-anticipated “Joy” opens on Christmas Day and the movie belongs to Jennifer Lawrence. She continues to grow and stretch as an actress and it’s mind-blowing to imagine her upcoming years in future films. In “Joy,” Lawrence plays real-life inventor Joy Mangano. Man, she had obstacles in her way. Her father Rudy, played gloriously by Robert de Niro, is a self-involved baby. His saving grace is that he really does love Joy.
Rudy has been divorced for years from Joy’s agoraphobic mother Terry (Virginia Madsen) but comes back to live in the basement, which inconveniences Joy’s ex-husband Tony (sexy Venezuelan actor Edgar Ramirez) who lives down there, too.
Mom Terry stays in bed all day, every day, watching soap operas — Susan Lucci joyfully camps it up. Joy’s grandmother Mimi (Diane Ladd) is the one person who believes in Joy and tells her she is going to live to do great things. Wise Grandma.
Joy rises above her weird upbringing and becomes a hugely successful entrepreneur against all odds. Obviously many liberties have been taken with the story but all okay with Mangano. Elisabeth Rohm, not the greatest character, plays her evil stepsister. She’s a cartoony villain.
Isabella Rossellini is a scene-stealer as Rudy’s wealthy girlfriend. Bradley Cooper has limited screen time but he and Lawrence still have chemistry. It’s also fun to see Melissa Rivers playing Joan Rivers on a home-shopping network TV show. Her scene is opposite the gorgeous Drena de Niro, Robert’s daughter, who seemed to have great fun in her role.
Mangano stood out since childhood. She was born with a special talent for making things. As an adult her inventions multiplied into clever products that people didn’t even know they needed. Mangano’s first big break was the self-wringing mop, which is not exactly what you’d think of as a riveting movie plot — and it isn’t. The plot does not wow, but the characters and actors do.
Director David O. Russell (“The Fighter,” “Silver Linings Playbook”) has created a fun, whacky comedic romp, with a similar feel to last year’s Academy Award sweetheart “American Hustle,” although “Joy” is not nearly as tight. Our advice is to go in knowing that it doesn’t quite reach the heights of his earlier films. With your expectations in perspective you’ll be free to enjoy “Joy.”
The production value soars, the soundtrack is all feel-good, and the all-star cast is the reason to go.
“Joy” opens Dec. 25, 2015. Comedy drama. Rated PG-13. 124 min.