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Review: Jennifer Lawrence mops up everyone in "Joy"

David Edelstein reviews Jennifer Lawrence's new film, "Joy," her third outing with the director of "Silver Linings Playbook" and "American Hustle."
"Joy": 3 times a charm for Jennifer Lawrence and director David O. Russell? 02:36

Star Jennifer Lawrence and director David O. Russell have an onscreen connection that gives me joy, and they're together for a third time in a comedy named, aptly, "Joy." Well, a more apt name would be "Joy-ish," since the movie has its clunky parts.

But if it's that or seeing "Star Wars" again, or watching Leonardo DiCaprio in "The Revenant" drag his bear-torn carcass across the tundra for two-and-three-quarter hours, well ...

In "Joy," Lawrence plays a divorced woman whose mind once teemed with ideas for inventions, but is now a bedraggled single mom living with a mom who won't leave her bedroom; an ex- who never moved out; and a divorced dad (played by Robert De Niro) who moves back in.

There's a wonderful, teeming, three-ring circus quality to life in the house, but it's also corrosive to the soul. It makes Joy forget who she was, who she is.

Driven to recreate herself, she devises a mop with a handy squeeze mechanism. She pleads for start-up cash from her father's new girlfriend, a smug rich widow (played by Isabella Rossellini); and she talks her way into the headquarters of the brand-new QVC network, convincing an executive (played by frequent Lawrence costar Bradley Cooper) to give her mop a shot.

Director David O. Russell discusses Golden Globe nominated film, “Joy” 05:56

"Joy" finds the perfect, crazy rhythm when Joy becomes the on-air salesperson for her invention, and watching Lawrence trip over one obstacle after another and pick herself up reminds you why she's so marvelous.

The problem with "Joy" is that Russell is paying less attention to his ensemble than to his leading lady.

He's building her a pedestal, and though there's a crowd-pleasing, inspirational arc to the way Joy overcomes the men who cheat her and the dad who undermines her, pedestals are still kind of dull ... unless it's "The Hunger Games" movies where she gets to royally waste a lot of bad guys.

But it's still fun -- it's always fun -- to watch JLo mop the floor with everyone.

To watch a trailer for "Joy" click on the video player below.

Edelstein also endorses:

  • "Brooklyn"
  • "45 Years"

More from David Edelstein:

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