COMIC DRAMA; 2hr 24min

STARRING: Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro, Virginia Madsen, Diane Ladd

Clean team: Lawrence and Cooper

Watching your dreams recede while you're still young enough to believe in them is not where anybody wants to be. But it's where Joy (Lawrence) washes up at the start of writer-director David O. Russell's ill-assorted bouquet, loosely inspired by 1990's Miracle Mop inventor Joy Mangano's life. Joy's days are an exhausting battle — she's cash-strapped and with her two young kids, her divorced parents (De Niro and Madsen), her grandmother (Ladd, who also narrates) and her ex-husband (Édgar Ramírez) all squeezed under her roof. But Joy has a lifesaving idea. And with the persistence of conviction and the erratic village of her in-your-face family, her self-wringing mop lands on the QVC home-shopping channel, overseen by televangelical exec Neil Walker (Cooper, solid but essentially sidelined, along with his fellow supporting cast).


Even from that exhilarating peak, Joy's eventual empire is never plain sailing. As re-imagined by Russell, her struggle is an unwieldy jumble, touched by intrusive whimsy, welling with emotion and plagued with misogynistic obstacles. Lawrence makes the hodgepodge work for her anyway. Securely on top of every demanding ask, she runs the disorderly show with the passion and intuition of a woman who, like Joy Mangano herself, has no time for half measures.