Daivd O. Russell has had a varied career, with his filmography spanning into a number of different genres. As a director and writer, Russell has had a bit of a hit-and-miss relationship with film.. In this edition of ‘Spotlight On’ diving into the filmography of David O. Russell.
After making several short films that gained him some notice at the Sundance Film Festival, Russell’s first full-feature directing effort was Spanking the Monkey. Having never heard of it, I tracked down the indie for research on this article and after watching, felt incredibly awkward.
Spanking the Monkey stars Jeremy Davies who develops an incestuous relationship with his mother (Alberta Watson). Thanks to Game of Thrones the subject matter wasn’t nearly as shocking as it would’ve been at the time of its release in 1994. Funnily enough, the film is fairly well made for a first effort – a movie to watch on a rainy day.
Afterwards came comedy Flirting With Disaster starring Ben Stiller and Patricia Arquette which really wasn’t my cup of tea. It wasn’t until 1999 that Russell’s work really stood out to me, with the satirical take on the Gulf War with Three Kings.
Three Kings may just be one of my favourite most underrated war films of all time. It’s a black comedy, a war movie, a heist movie and a satire all at once. Starring George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Ice Cube and Spike Jonze – we follow a group of soldiers as they attempt to steal stolen gold bullion.
After the box office failure of his next film I Heart Huckabees, Russell didn’t do a whole lot of public work but came screaming back in 2010 with the release of The Fighter.
Working once again with Wahlberg, along with Christian Bale and Amy Adams, Russell brought the bittersweet story of boxing brothers Micky Ward and Dicky Eklund to life. The film was a return to form for Russell.
The Fighter may just be up there with films like Rocky in the years to come.
Russell followed up the success with Silver Linings Playbook in 2012, a film which earned eight Academy Award nominations. He continued to knock it out of the park once again with American Hustle the following year. The film reunited him with Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Christian Bale and Amy Adams.
A film set in the late 70s about a pair of con artists forced to work along with an FBI Agent setting up multiple sting operations, American Hustle might not sound all that great at first, but when you watch it you become instantly hooked. The setting, the music, the visuals and the story (some of which actually happened, as the films title card says) all combine for an incredibly entertaining two hours.
Sadly, it was also the end of Russell’s impressive run of films. In 2015 he followed up with Joy, one of the most boring and unnecessary movies I’ve ever seen. The script is bad, Lawrence overacts the entire time and the pacing is all over the place. Full of melodrama, Joy is about as exciting as watching grass grow. Still, the film was a moderate box office success and earned Lawrence another Academy Award nomination. At least some people can at least get some sort of joy out of it.
More recently Russell has been working on his own television series for Amazon. It was set to star Robert De Niro and Julianne Moore, but that looks to no longer be the case. The show was apart of The Weinstein Company and Russell and his stars said the show would not be going ahead after Amazon decided to sever ties with the company in light of the recent Harvey Weinstein scandal.
Nonetheless, I’m sure Russell will pick himself back up and be back to working on a new project soon enough.
So that’s it for our Spotlight On David O. Russell. What do you think of his filmography? What’s your favourite Russell film? Let us know in the comments and on our Facebook page. Don’t forget to head over to our Movie Nerds YouTube channel for some great videos.