Saturday, January 11, 2014

Do The Hustle (Movie Review: American Hustle)

David O. Russell's "American Hustle," is in, the best possible way, a hot mess.  It starts out with Irving (Christian Bale) arranging his comb-over the same way that John Travolta dressed and danced in the beginning of "Saturday Night Live," and from the first frame you know this is going to be a wild and wicked ride. And it is. Based on the 1978 Abscam scandal which involved both FBI agents and con men, the plot is a little convoluted, but utimately engrossing and rich. The movie is more an actor's acting exercise than anything else: it loves it's colored cast so much it dressed it in campy 70s garb (which is fabulous - you would not know where to look) and every scene becomes an alternating actor's highlight. And these are some of the best. Bale, along with Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence and Jeremy Renner have such cinematic presence they match the film's outrageousness scene by scene. I wish things were just a little more subtle. Bale seems to be channeling De Niro here, and I never felt Cooper was really comfortable in his character's skin enough to be fully believable. (De Niro actually makes a little cameo and it felt too meta) The ladies fare better. Jennifer Lawrence is getting raves for basically the Lorraine Bracco role. It isn't the most original thing in the world, but JLaw has enough charisma for weeks that even though she may be a tad too young for the role, you are never not convinced. I had mixed emotions about Adams - there's something about it that bugs me. Is it the (deliberately) fake British accent, or her wide-eyed deer in headlights look? It's still a formidable performance, but I wasn't completely sold. Maybe it's because I also have ambivalent admiration for the movie. It was fun to watch while I was watching it, but I didn't feel it was memorable as an experience: it didn't resonate, I did not root for anyone, and didn't care either way how it ended, or what happened to the characters. I guess I would be fine if this film won a lot during Awards season, but I just emotionally connected with others.

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