It’s wonderful to hear what Cooper and Lawrence can do with great dialogue and complicated feelings, also what they can do as part of a larger acting team, especially alongside a hale, in-rare-form De Niro. You’re initially wary that Lawrence has been cast because sexy ingénues like her are what happens when straight men take their fantasies out on us. But you realize that she’s just in need of more parts as full as her figure. She’s built like the pinups from 50 years ago, and in this movie she has the authority of a star even older than that. When she gives a rousing, authoritative speech about football statistics it’s a shock both because no one in the movie expects it of Tiffany and no one in the audience expects it of Lawrence.
The rest of the cast includes Paul Herman, John Ortiz, Shea Whigham, Anupam Kher, and Chris Tucker, and even once the movie’s coincidences and human pileups have strained all credibility, the sound of them all shouting over each other or racing around a downtown ballroom is just such a satisfying display of kinetic teamwork that we begin to accept the movie’s implausibilities as part of a larger social fable. You come to appreciate that the six- or seven-person argument is as dear to Russell as car chases were to John Frankenheimer.
Russell began his career in the mid-1990s on the margins of mainstream moviemaking, with the droll riff on incest, “Spanking the Monkey,” and gradually permeated the industry’s membrane with “Flirting With Disaster,” “Three Kings,” “I Heart Huckabees,” and “The Fighter.” He’s evolved into Hollywood’s most instinctive director of ensemble comedies. They’re starry, hyper-intelligent, over-caffeinated, crazed adventures in screwball comedy. They take on the philosophic, the neurotic, and the familial. Their characters are searching for ideas and moral high ground and people. They’re trying to figure out where they belong in the universe, in war zones, in their bloodlines. They’re trying to find some balance between the sane and the crazy, between judgment and compassion. But the exhilarating truth of the David O. Russell experience is that — philosophy and pharmaceuticals be damned — the balance doesn’t exist: We’re all just kind of nuts.