Work relationships can be tricky. Sometimes it jells. Sometimes it doesn't. With David O. Russell and Jennifer Lawrence, it's becoming a thing of beauty.

Work relationships can be tricky. Sometimes it jells. Sometimes it doesn't. With David O. Russell and Jennifer Lawrence, it's becoming a thing of beauty.

"Joy" marks the director's third film with Lawrence after her standout performance in 2012's "Silver Linings Playbook" and that truly scene-stealing turn in "American Hustle." ("Don't put metal in the science oven!" is one of my favorite line deliveries of the past decade.)

For "Joy," Russell casts Lawrence as an inventor-entrepreneur inspired by a real-life figure, although the emphasis is on "inspired by" rather than any semblance of a straight biopic. That difference has been a matter of contention among some critics, but I'm in favor of the fictionalization here.

Joy (Lawrence) is a single mother of two and the cornerstone of her family across generations. When we meet her, she's working at an airline ticket desk to support the residents of her home: her two children, her mother (Virginia Madsen), her ex-husband Tony (Édgar Ramírez) and finally, her recently and newly single father Rudy (Robert De Niro).

TheA loss of her job throws Joy into some soul-searching and a return to the inventor mindset she'd abandoned when she was a young girl. An accident on a family outing gives birth to an idea, which begins a journey into starting her own business.

If you know the real story of Joy Mangano, you know this story - albeit with more than a few fictional details. If you don't, it's a lot more fun to watch how it unfolds (and a lot easier to not get lost in the changed bits).

For starters, some have quibbles with casting 25-year-old Lawrence as a middle-aged single mom, though both of the previous teamings with Russell had her playing older characters. It's a testament to Lawrence's skill that she can be believable her on the heels of her young "Hunger Games" protagonist, but and she's always displayed a wisdom beyond her years.

There are certainly some actors who aren't fans of Russell after working with him, but in addition to Lawrence and De Niro, he's also got a returning Bradley Cooper in supporting role. Though the plot can be scattershot at times - again, some dislike this but I found it lively - the performances are all solid.

"Joy" is a rags-to-riches tale with a heavy feminist slant, funny and moving, even when it's rough around the edges. Critics are pretty split on this one, but this holiday, I say "Joy" to the world.

"Joy"

Opens Christmas Day

3½ stars