If you've seen the previews, then you kinda already get it: Jennifer Lawrence plays a woman named Joy who invents the greatest household mop in the history of mankind and goes on to (after A LOT of angst) sell millions of them on TV. On the way, Jennifer/Joy meets the Scarecrow, the Tin ... I mean Robert De Niro, Isabella ("Do you pick up da gun, Joy?") Rossellini, and Bradley Cooper, all delivering slightly weird and quirky performances elicited by director David O. Russell. It doesn't taste as good as the picture makes it look on the menu. The enterprise has an odd, unnatural flavor that just doesn't go down right -- like improv that's not really improv after all.
The movie unfolds sort of clumsily due, in part, to a dopey narration from (I guess) dead grandma. It's dumb, unnecessary, and badly written as well as portrayed in sitcom style by Diane Ladd. Why is she explaining her death, and why is this the grandmother's point of view anyway? It's silly and comes and goes rather inconsistently. The wait for the pay-off is long and a little arduous and may not be worth it for a lot of folks.
Now, Mr. Russell is hardly a sloppy director (Three Kings, American Hustle, Silver Linings Playbook), but he can be an indulgent one (I Heart Huckabees), and this project feels like something that may have seemed better when you were filming it high on weed.
Once again, Jennifer Lawrence plays a character she's too young and too pretty to play, and, once again, she is appealing beyond belief. There's no question she is the contemporary version of Julia Roberts -- with considerably more acting skill at this point in her life. Beyond being a wonderful actress, she is (again, like Julia) a screen-popping movie star of the first order. I've gotta use a stupid pun: The only true joy from Joy is the engaging performance of Miss Lawrence -- and, for a lot the picture, it's enough.
(Loudinni provides movie reviews in 500 words or less, usually sans spoilers.)