David O. RussellEclectic, Brainy, Sardonic American Auteur
Despite his volatile reputation and slow rate of output, Russell is a reliably fascinating filmmaker.
Since his debut with the darkly comic 1994 incest drama, Spanking the Monkey, writer/director David O. Russell's career has taken one surprising turn after another. Following the neo-screwball adoption comedy Flirting with Disaster and Three Kings, his scathingly funny heist film set in the moral wasteland of post-Gulf War Iraq, Russell made an even bolder movie, the divisive anti-consumerist existential farce I Heart Huckabees. Perhaps with that production, Russell reached some kind of general-audience-alienating apotheosis, because his next feature—the underdog boxing drama, The Fighter—was his most straightforward crowd-pleaser to date. Russell has gained some notoriety for his on-set antics, including well-publicized conflicts with George Clooney and Lily Tomlin. Whatever Russell's methods, he clearly has a knack for getting his actors' best work, and for mining the humor from dark material. His visual style changes from project to project—from the gritty authenticity and bleach bypass of Three Kings to the bright, candy-colored Huckabees to the more muted palette and composed camera work of The Fighter, he finds an approach that suits his subject. Reputed to be a mercurial perfectionist, Russell has abandoned several projects at various stages, but despite his unsteady output, he's established a consistent track record of vivid, challenging work in a wide range of genres.