“Joy” is an unpretentious, straightforward story of a housewife from Long Island who succeeds in spite of all the socially conceived odds stacked against her.  She endures criticism and vocal derision from her family and close friends who can’t believe she has the intelligence, creativity, fortitude and perseverance to win in business. Ultimately she proves to have more of those qualities than most high level executives.

Jennifer Lawrence has grown into a fine actress with a multi-faceted range.  In this film she ages from teens to 40’s believably.  She is able to capture not only the facial nuances but the physical attributes that change as we age. In the role of Joy, Lawrence is able to portray a calm strength and a painful vulnerability without showing weakness.

Robert De Niro does a fine job as Joy’s dad. In a difficult role, he is able to convey sympathy, as the owner of an auto shop business who is under the thumb of his oldest daughter. Isabella Rossellini turns in a great performance in a character role as dad’s new flame, a shrewd and rich widow. Bradley Cooper is effectively, unapologetically slimy as a shopping network executive who has his concept of running the show turned upside down by Joy. Although his role is supporting, there is chemistry again between Cooper and Lawrence in their scenes together, as there was in director Russell’s “Silver Linings Playbook,” which starred both actors. Diane Ladd and Virginia Madsen are colorful as Joy’s sweet grandmother and dysfunctional mother. Even the “TV show within the film” soap opera is a colorful send up of the genre. Susan Lucci and Donna Mills really churn out the colorful overdramatic scenes of this soap that keeps popping up in Joy’s imagination and occupies her mom’s entire life. Watch for a jaw-dropping cameo by Melissa Rivers as the spitting image of her mom, Joan, selling items on QVC. It’s not just done with hair and makeup magic – Melissa nails Joan’s physical movements and facial expressions and voice so well that the image has you wondering if they photo-shopped in actual old footage of Joan (they didn’t).

David O. Russell wrote and directed this salt of the earth story about a downtrodden housewife who refuses to listen to disbelievers and builds a successful business based on her creativity, perseverance and intuitive engineering acumen. It’s a feel-good family movie, brightened by great performances from the cast.

Rated PG 13, 124 Minutes, Released December 25th

Kathryn Whitney Boole was drawn into the entertainment industry as a kid and never left. It has been the backdrop for many awesome adventures with crazy creative people.  She now works as a Talent Manager with Studio Talent Group in Santa Monica. kwboole@gmail.com

For previously published reviews see https://kwboole.wordpress.com/