I’ve talked to just about everyone I know who’s seen American Hustle. The general consensus is that they either liked it but couldn’t tell me why, or they hated it and could tell me exactly why. My take is that it is a great movie – if you can get past the plot. Or rather, lack of.
American Hustle is about conman Irving Rosenfeld and his seductive partner Sydney Prosser, who are forced to help a blindly ambitious FBI agent, Richie DiMaso, try and take down the bigwigs of New Jersey’s power players and mafia. And for a while, everything seems to go according to plan. That is until Irving’s unpredictable wife Rosalyn enters the scene.
It’s a fairly straightforward story and it all ends rather quickly with a neat bow on top. But I’m okay with it because American Hustle is more like a homage to the place and time it’s set, New Jersey in the late 1970s; and a tribute to a people who are just trying to rise from the scum they’ve been handed.
Where the movie lacks in complexity of plot, it makes up with phenomenal characters. It can definitely be labeled an “actor’s movie”. Each person is so well defined, distinctly unique, and wildly unpredictable- but in a way that totally makes sense! And that is my favourite part of American Hustle: the logical unpredictability. I truly did not know where the story was headed due to the fact that it was so character driven and I just couldn’t predict anyone’s next move. Particularly Sydney Prosser played by the incredibly vulnerable Amy Adams. She had me guessing from beginning to end whether she’d pick Irving or Ritchie, or if she was just going to up and leave them all together. Nevertheless, I definitely bought her act of passion. Maybe Sydney actually did fall for Richie or maybe she didn’t. Who knows? But that’s what I’m saying, Adams is that good.
In fact, they’re all good. Christian Bale’s cunning calculated Irving juxtaposed against Cooper’s excitable and almost puppy-like Ritchie is absolutely hilarious to watch. Or Jennifer Lawrence as the self righteous, blissfully ignorant Rosalyn bait- only to be destroyed by- Amy Adam’s confident and composed Sydney. Throw in Jeremy Renner as the virtuous family man/“corrupt” politician with insanely high hair and we got ourselves a party! It’s fascinating to watch all these distinctly different people run from their true selves in a desperate attempt to be something they’re not. By the end, there isn’t a single person left that you don’t pity. They all try to hustle each other and without even realizing it, hustle themselves.
Aside from the acting, American Hustle deserves praise for its flawless transitions from one scene to the next. Director David O. Russell (who also co-wrote the script with Eric Warren Singer) uses music, movement, and a series of swirling shots for one smooth ride from beginning to end.
Though I don’t think it’ll win the Oscar for Best Picture, American Hustle is worth the watch for star studded performances, stellar dialogue, and an insight into the minds of the extreme.
Have a great week!
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