4.5/5 MUST must see SEE
dir-scr David O Russell
prd David O Russell, John Davis, Megan Ellison, Jonathan Gordon, Ken Mok
with Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro, Edgar Ramirez, Virginia Madsen, Diane Ladd, Isabella Rossellini, Dascha Polanco, Elisabeth Rohm, Melissa Rivers, Susan Lucci, Donna Mills
release US 25.Dec.15; UK 1.Jan.16
15/US Fox 2h04
Let it snow: Lawrence and Ramirez

cooper deniro madsen
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Joy Maverick filmmaker David O Russell clearly felt an affinity for the subject of this biopic: a woman who tenaciously holds onto her dream amid a blinding range of obstacles both within her family and in the big bad world around her. It's a lively, inventive film that inventively mixes dark emotions with, yes, unfettered joy.

In her chaotic family, Joy (Lawrence) is the de facto head of household due to her intelligence and creativity. Not that anyone gives her credit. Her father (De Niro) returns after his third failed marriage, her mother (Madsen) is addicted to soap operas, and her wannabe rocker ex-husband (Ramirez) lives in the basement. Only her grandmother (Ladd) has any confidence in her. Then in a flash of inspiration, Joy invents a self-wringing mop and struggles to get it on the market. Eventually, she catches the eye of the head (Cooper) of a new shopping network.

Nothing about Joy's journey follows usual movie narrative formulas, as every step she takes is blocked by an obstacle that feels unexpected and so outrageous that it has to be true. While most of these barriers have to do with Joy's gender and business naivete, others are much closer to home, such as her undermining sister Peggy (a remarkably unapologetic Polanco). And as in real life, she finds support from unexpected corners, including her ex, a childhood buddy (Rohm) and her dad's new girlfriend (the scene-stealing Rossellini).

Every performance is spotless, creating startlingly believable eccentrics swirling around our heroine. It's impossible to pick a stand-out, as each develops specific chemistry with Lawrence, who delivers yet another textured, bracingly sympathetic turn as a woman who is constantly knocked down but keeps staggering back to her feet. In her exhausted but determined eyes, it's almost too easy to recognise a flood of feelings we've had ourselves. And watching her refuse to give up is seriously empowering.

Russell writes and directs this with razor-sharp wit, creating a comical vibe that strengthens the story's edgy themes. Each scene bristles with visual bravura, including the hilariously glamorous soap Joy's mother watches (yes, that's Lucci and Mills having it out on-screen) and the overlit shopping network sets (complete with Melissa Rivers playing her mom). It sometimes feels a bit frantic, and Lawrence barely seems to age over about 40 years, but this is one of the most entertaining and ruthlessly truthful films ever made about the American dream.

cert 12 themes, language 7.Dec.15

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