‘Amsterdam’ or — A Six Step Guide to Making Films the David O. Russell Way.
Ever sat through a David O. Russell movie and thought to yourself “Hmm, how can I possibly make something as insufferably annoying and irritatingly self-congratulatory as that?” Well, worry no more because thanks to my handy, easy to learn, six-step guide to making films the O. Russell way you’ll soon be churning out the most gratingly irritating movies imaginable in no time!
1/ Incongruous Dialogue = Hilarious Dialogue
You know what’s really funny? When two people simultaneously give conflicting answers to a simple question. For example — if someone asks two people “Did he just leave through the back door?”, or some other basic question, have the two people simultaneously give contradictory answers. So one says “Yes” but the other one says “No” at exactly the same time. This is because you think, just like O. Russell, that overlapping incongruous dialogue is super funny because, you know, they both said different things at the same time. Hysterical!
In fact, you find it so hilarious that you use it as frequently and often as humanly possible even though there is no actual reason for either of the characters to do so. But hey, that just makes it even MORE incongruous and, hence, even more funny. Genius!
2/ Repetition = Instant Laughter
You know what else is also side-splittingly funny? Having your characters repeat the same word three times just like in ‘Seinfeld’. So if Mike Myers says the word “Cuckoo” have Robert De Niro then say “Cuckoo?” followed by Christian Bale affirming “Cuckoo”. This is because hearing a word repeated is the funniest thing in the world and as it was funny in ‘Seinfeld’ it will, automatically, be funny in your script regardless of context. Indeed, if you remember Step 1, then LESS context is even better.
Also remember to have your cast look quizzically at each other when it happens as though they’re all thinking “Hey, this is weird and unnatural. It’s almost as though we’re in some wacky Hollywood movie with brilliantly written and hilarious dialogue”, even though they’re not and are actually in a David O. Russell movie instead.
Which nicely leads us into the next step -
3/ Make Your Entire Script as Exasperatingly Smug as Possible
You know who else writes tedious, exasperatingly smug dialogue? Quentin Tarantino. But that’s okay because you want to BE Quentin Tarantino or, at least, have people mention you in the same breath as him even though those people obviously have no taste.
This is because, just like Quentin, you mistake smug verbiage for good script writing. This means the audience’s comprehension is not, and never should be, a factor to be considered even for a moment compared to your pathological need to keep spewing forth your endless fountain of meaningless, redundant, posturing crap.
And make sure your dialogue is REALLY smug. Like, so self-satisfied and superior that it can only be delivered through an arrogant smirk. Sure, this will risk the audience feeling like shit due to your movie’s condescending attitude towards them but that’s even better because, you know — fuck ‘em.
4/ Ill-disciplined Chaos = Depth
So instead of a tightly written, well constructed plot make sure your script consist PURELY of ‘unintegrated ridiculous moments’. They don’t need to, and indeed shouldn’t, hang together because that automatically makes your movie seem really RISKY and DARING as opposed to what it really is, i.e. intolerably awful.
So badly thought out faux-non sequiturs are your friends because they throw the audience briefly off balance and feeling intimidated hearing your “clever” words followed by them immediately worrying your script might be going over their heads even though if they were actually to stop and think about what they’ve just heard they’d realise it was actually a load of cack-handedly strung together bollocks you’ve been doing purely for show. You, personally, might think that these off-kilter lines equals a sort of Don DeLillo-esque linguistic flare but it doesn’t and, in reality, only ends up embarrassing yourself and your writing ability. Fortunately reality isn’t a problem because as long as YOU believe it then that’s all that matters and because you’re David O. Russell then you are all that matters.
5/ Struggling to Write Human Beings with any Real Depth? Give
Them a Mental Illness!
If you’re the sort of writer who hasn’t got a clue how human beings actually work or is more interested in showing off as opposed to portraying characters with any real depth then simply follow O. Russell’s works-every-time insta-trick of giving them a mental illness. And it’s SO quick and easy!
Want to flesh out Margo Robbie’s role but haven’t got a fucking clue how to do it properly? Give her a mental illness and BLAMMO! — instant depth! Wondering how to make Bradley Cooper’s deeply unlikable character sympathetic but can’t be arsed putting the work in. Mental illness and KABOOM! — now he’s adorable!
It’s also vital that you lean heavily into writing characters with off-the-peg ‘conditions’ because this, most importantly, distracts you from dealing with your own obvious, real-life rampant narcissism.
6/ Finish with a Self-glorifying Montage
Want to really ram your sickening smugness down the audience’s throats right before they leave the cinema and towards blessed freedom? Finish your movie with a montage of what YOU think were all your movie’s most wonderful moments, moments you deludedly regard as so wonderful you assume everyone else now views them as cherished memories even though it’s completely up to the audience, and not you, to decide if any of these moments they’ve just sat through were any good in the first place, which they weren’t.
Again, this has nothing to do with the audience’s pleasure and everything to do with your own ego. This is not filmmaking. This is the cinematic equivalent of looking at yourself in the mirror whilst masturbating.
So there you go! Just follow those six, easy rules as you’ll soon be churning out insufferable crap as grating as O. Russell himself.