Hold your breath; the talented and delightfully ubiquitous Jennifer Lawrence is back — and Robert De Niro, Bradley Cooper and director David O. Russell as well.

No, it’s not “Silver Linings Playbook,” and no, it’s not “American Hustle” (I wish). It’s fun, but not that good. But I confess, I liked it.

What we’ve learned in this dizzy decade is that David O. Russell is working with the brand that worked so well for the directors of the ’30s and ’40s: get a team together that America loves, and keep the laughs and tears coming. It’s magic time, magic, even though the rabbit doesn’t always come out of the hat.

“Joy” is the life story of Joy Mangano, a tough Long Island Italian girl (is there any other kind?) who loved, even as a child, inventing stuff, and after years of trying, finally came up with an idea that broke through: The Miracle Mop.

Mangano created the mop under the aegis of her own company, Ingenious Designs, and marketed it on QVC, that home shopping network that a dying breed of women, American housewives, watched back in the ’90s when they weren’t watching soap operas. Oh, Harriet Nelson, we remember you.

Joy went from there to the larger Home Shopping Network, where it caught fire and made her rich and eventually, later in her life, made her a leading Shopping Network superstar.


Of course, like in all good inventor stories, the road wasn’t paved with golden bricks, but filled with detours and potholes.

Mangano went bust, bounced back, went seriously bust and bounced back again, but never, in the style of Thomas Edison and Hillary Clinton, gave up.

All of this would make a great documentary, but Russell takes us deeply into the chaos that was Mangano’s family life, filled with familiar characters.

We get Robert De Niro, doing his De Niro “Pop” role again, who comes home, cast out by his third wife, and Joy has to put him in the basement, where her ex-husband, Tony (a nice, fun Edgar Ramirez), lives.

Yes, it’s a Hal Roach, Ernst Lubitsch madcap romp, and you can’t make that stuff up.

Bradley Cooper, this time out, softens to play a sympathetic Neil Walker, the top dog of all top dogs in the Home Shopping Network, who reins in the wildness of Mangano and makes her a shopping star. I refuse to tell you more and kill the laughs, because surprise laughs are the best laughs.


The cast struggles to cover the holes in a slightly cluttered script: Diane Ladd as the grandma, Virginia Madsen as the soap addict momma, and of all people, the legendary Isabella Rossellini as Trudy, a wealthy widow who meets De Niro on a dating phone service. She’s wonderful, and her mama would be proud.

Cooper seems to be on the team just to help out. In a role that most actors would just walk through, Cooper, by now a pro, doesn’t, and brings calm and assurance to the shaky Mangano and her batty family.

Soap opera fans will be jolted and delighted to see the famous Susan Lucci on Mama’s home screen.

Basically true, partially made up, invented or fake, the story is about loyalty, family love, even crazy love, that all come together to help the outlier in the family survive and succeed.

“Joy” probably won’t make anyone’s top award lists this year, but Jennifer? Don’t count her out. She owns this movie and steals every scene she’s in, and she’s in every one.

J.P. Devine is a former stage and screen actor and the author of “Will Write For Food.”

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