“Joy” wrings about as much entertainment as you can get out of a story about a woman selling mops.

Director and co-writer David O. Russell (“Silver Linings Playbook,” “American Hustle”) has set the bar pretty high for himself in recent outings, but here he lowers it just a bit, telling (with co-writer Annie Mumolo) the semi-true story of Joy Mangano, a harried Long Island mother (Jennifer Lawrence) who invents what comes to be known as the Miracle Mop and goes on to huge success.

But not without clearing a number of hurdles, not the least of which is her own family. Russell delights in messy, dysfunctional family dynamics and Joy, aside from three kids, has to take care of a mother (Virginia Madsen) who lives all day in her bedroom watching soap operas, an ex-husband (Edgar Ramirez) who lives in the basement, her cranky father (Robert De Niro), who also lives in the basement, as well as a pushy sister (Elisabeth Rohm).

Joy is the glue that holds them together, even if the bills are overdue. Then one day she stumbles on the idea for a new kind of mop. Borrowing money from her father’s new girlfriend (Isabella Rossellini), she actually gets the mop made. The problem is no one wants to sell it. Until she meets Neil Walker (Bradley Cooper), an exec at a new home shopping TV network. Problem solved, right? Yes and no; problems keep coming.

And the steely Joy keeps beating them down. Unlike Russell’s other recent films, this one — as delicious as the ensemble is — is full-on focused on one character. It’s all about Joy overcoming obstacles on her way to the American Dream and Lawrence imbues her with strength and resolve. The result is joyous indeed.



Rated PG-13 for brief strong language

Running time: 124 minutes

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