101 Funniest Screenplays

Writer-director David O. Russell “finds the strong central line” where all screwball comedies begin, wrote the late film critic Roger Ebert. “The seemingly serious mission or quest.” The quest here belongs to Mel, a first-time father who decides to track down his birth parents. As Ebert notes, Mel’s search steadily accrues more and more eccentric characters, including two agents for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms who are also lovers. If madcap anti-hero quests have long been a staple of comedy, Russell was putting his own stamp on the genre after his quieter seriocomic debut, Spanking the Monkey. “One thing I learned making those first two movies was how much dialogue in cinema is about rhythm,” Russell told the DGA Quarterly in 2014. “The rhythm has to be like in music. And not just the language – the visuals, too, every shot is rhythmic.”