Robert De Niro talks Martin Scorsese and Jennifer Lawrence

Robert De Niro talks Martin Scorsese and Jennifer Lawrence

His three most recent pictures - The Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle - constitute a remarkable string of movies viewed as popular, competitive for awards and very good. Written and directed by David O. Russell. They earned 18 Oscar nominations between them, and they also had something in common, the team of Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper. (Russell, in a clever casting coup, populates her television with actual soap stars and clearly gave them one acting demand: soapier!) Dad is looking for love through a dating service for widows and widowers, and despite being neither he strikes gold with Trudy, played with great élan by Isabella Rossellini. Cooper plays the kingpin of the QVC network and Joy's mentor in the world of instant telemarketing. Bradley Cooper thankfully underplays it all the way through his handful of scenes.

Russell likes making movies about broken people - dysfunctional families full of bitter divorces, emotionally disturbed relatives, irrational behavior and frequent shouting matches. Not only is it the true story of a woman who made good by inventing a tricked-out mop, the film itself is squeaky clean. You'd think she were returning a pet beagle who couldn't stop chewing everyone's slippers. She has her ex-husband (Edgar Ramirez) living in the basement.

Joy's daughter is in the house, too. They reunited once again in Joy.

After talking the tightfisted Trudi into investing in her Miracle Mop idea and setting up in her father's auto body shop, Joy determinedly sets out to change cleaning as we know it, facing skeptical retailers, bad advice from her family and crooked factory workers along the way.

Stay on topic - This helps keep the thread focused on the discussion at hand.

Sometimes these days we're quick to reject the "pull yourself up by the bootstraps" mentality, but David O. Russell seems to be challenging us to see a deeper contemporary value in this. In the past they created "Silver Linings Playbook" and "American Hustle". After a few bumps in the road, Joy's mop sells more than any other product and she's on her way. Then the movie hacks its way through backstage dramas involving a patent controversy, unscrupulous business partners and impediments to Joy's destiny. And she gets the idea for a new mop that can be wrung out without handling the wet and dirty mop head.

The movie is off to the races. The scenes with him at the QVC headquarters have an energy and dreaminess missing from much of the rest of the film.

So we watch for the seriocomic struggles of our attractive, lovable heroine to make a go of the mop business. How would you describe her character beyond that? It's hard to know what really happened, but it seems like a woman supporting her family while building a multimillion-dollar fortune with nothing more than ingenuity and determination would be dramatic enough.

Russell's latest film, Joy, is out in two days on Christmas so let's take a look at one final great trailer for the biographical drama.

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