American Hustle

Last night, American Hustle won the BAFTA for Best Original Screenplay and that got me thinking: “How the hell did American Hustle win the BAFTA for Best Original Screenplay?” I’ve also been contemplating “Why is American Hustle nominated for Best Director at so many awards shows, including yesterday’s BAFTAs and the upcoming Oscars?” They’re questions I can’t really fathom an answer to because, as far as I can recall, it wasn’t a very good film, and the main aspects that let it down were the direction and the script.american-hustle-1I have almost nothing but praise to laud upon the film in terms of acting, especially for Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner, who were the standouts for me. Christian Bale and Bradley Cooper were both decent enough in their roles, as in fact was the rest of the cast, although I found Jennifer Lawrence to be annoying on such a level that I really do not want her to win the Best Supporting Actress Oscar she seems to be hurtling towards at an alarming velocity. As much as she may be lovely as a person (I’ve only seen the one brief interview with her, so I can’t discuss this much, but general consensus seems to be she’s adorable), her performance here is far from awards-worthy, and I’d much rather see it go to Lupita Nyong’O (the only other candidate I’ve seen thus far) or Sally Hawkins, who though I’ve not seen Blue Jasmine I do know is a damn fine actress, regardless of how much I hated Happy-Go-Lucky.???????????????????????? Elsewhere the production design, costumes, styling et al were wonderful – enough for me to not argue with the Best Picture nod, as long as it doesn’t win – but I’m genuinely confused by how such a boring and unoriginal script was even considered for awards. I’m aware that this ‘review’ is turning into a slander against the Oscar nominations, but that’s my main concerns for this film. The tone is all over the place, resulting in a scattershot mess that’s too depressing to be enjoyable and too serious to be fun. Some scenes – like Jennifer Lawrence’s marigold-clad lip sync – seem to have been lifted from David Lynch or Terry Gilliam, and have no place whatsoever in this film.wpid-Jennifer-Lawrence-American-Hustle-04The film itself sees a couple of con artists – played by Christian Bale and Amy Adams – being rumbled by Bradley Cooper’s detective. He then uses them to lure in a bigger mark, played by Jeremy Renner. Bale’s manic wife, Jennifer Lawrence, screws everything up by becoming far more involved than was intended. On the surface this sounds fun and zany – I do love a good heist or grifter movie – but the problem here is there’s no sense of an ingenious scheme, no unexpected rug-pulls, nothing of any actual interest within the film. Yes, it’s more about the characters and their motivations than the hustle itself, but the characters we’re given are all fairly thin (metaphorically, at least) and whilst mostly well acted, they aren’t terribly likeable, relatable or, as with the plot, interesting. I found myself not caring whether anyone succeeded with what they were doing, and therefore just wanted the film to end so I could get on with my life.American+Hustle+2That being said, there are elements to enjoy here. Louis C. K., in my first dalliance with his career, was pretty damn hilarious as Cooper’s sad sack superior, and Amy Adams shone as the ever-switching-allegiance Sydney Prosser. Jeremy Renner too is getting far less praise than I expected as the kindest corrupt politican you’ll ever see on film. There’s some decent cameos too, which I wont spoil here, and the opening scene of Bale’s Irving Rosenfeld meticulously assembling an intricate combover was possibly the highlight of the movie.american-hustle-movie-clip-telephone-fight-2013-bradley-cooper-movie-hdOverall it isn’t necessarily a terrible film – for the most part I’d consider it at least good – it is simply far from worthy of all the praise it has received. Bear in mind I may unintentionally have something against David O. Russell as a director, as I recall not loving Silver Linings Playbook half as much as everyone else seemed to either, and didn’t think Lawrence deserved the Best Actress Oscar there either – that should have gone to Naomi Watts, who was in my opinion astounding in The Impossible. Lawrence would have come third of the three nominated performances I’ve seen thus far, after Jessica Chastain for Zero Dark Thirty. As I’ve already said, I’ve nothing against her as an actress, she has simply not proven herself awards worthy yet. I’m fully aware that Silver Linings Playbook probably deserves another viewing, but I don’t think the same can be said for American Hustle. If I did, it would probably be purely for the hairstyles.

Choose Life 6/10

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13 thoughts on “American Hustle

  1. I, too, think Renner deserves a lot more praise. He seems to be getting overlooked.

    For me the movie needed to cut 15-20 minutes of the first 70 and get to the point where all the various threads come together. That 20 minute or so section in the third half hour was easily the highlight of the film for me.

    • I think by the 90 minute mark I’d gotten so bored that I can’t even recall exactly what point you’re talking about! But there was definitely a lot that could have been either cut or performed more efficiently.

  2. I couldn’t agree more – it’s a great performance showcase but the script and direction is very weak. For a conman movie it has such a poor finale in particular. Where most similar films impress with a clever twist or something like that to close the film, this just fizzles out. I don’t know why it’s getting so much buzz. I don’t mind that it’s ‘just supposed to be fun’ as some people argue, but I didn’t actually find it that fun. Wolf of Wall Street was far more entertaining (although it could have been a lot shorter).

    I disagree with Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence though. Lawrence was one of the best things about the film for me as I always enjoyed it when she was on screen whereas Adams did little for me (other than flash her distractingly open cleavage for 90% of the film).

    • I didn’t find it fun either. Wolf of Wall Street was definitely a much better picture (that was very, very long), although I didn’t love that as much as everyone else I either (review pending).

      I can see why you think Lawrence was entertaining, as she was something different and vibrant in an otherwise relatively dull film, but for me she went too far and became annoying. Adams on the otherhand I felt did a great job as essentially two different characters. The cleavage was very distracting though.

  3. I think they simply spent too long on characters I just couldn’t empathise with. Jeremy Renner’s performance was great and his character was lovely. They should have spent longer establishing the Bale/Renner relationship and then more clearly forced Bale to chose between Adams and Renner. Why did they establish the mayor’s character after he was already doomed? The drama would have been so much greater if Bale destroyed him despite their friendship, in order to save Adams. Copper’s role should have been cut back significantly and, despite being quite amusing, the film as a whole would have been much better without Lawrence’s character – her role in the story could have been covered with a few line from Bale.

    • I get the feeling David O. Russell was more interested in working with a cast of actors he enjoyed working with more than whether or not they were either right for the role, or the role was right for the story. It’s a wonder there wasn’t another couple of superfluous roles written in for Mark Wahlberg and Melissa Leo.

  4. reading your review, I felt that much of what you said, I have thought or said myself.

    I just don’t get why so many people have gone googly-eyed over this movie. It isn’t a masterpiece of filmmaking and succeeds primarily because of the amazing acting performances.

    I will be very disappointed if it manages to walk away with a few Oscars because there are much better made movies this year that are more deserving of the recognition.

    Lawrence’s win last year truly was a travesty since Watts should have won. Her performance in The Impossible was gripping and heartbreaking.

  5. Pingback: Movie date: ‘American Hustle’ + wardrobe | Mixup Fixup

  6. Thanks for your honest review. I haven’t seen this movie yet but it seems right up my alley and I was looking forward to catching up with it eventually. I was probably expecting it to be utterly amazing given all the good reviews and award nominations and so forth. But your review has tempered that somewhat, and overall that’s likely to be a good thing. If I lower my expectations, I’ll probably end up enjoying the viewing experience more.

    • I was expecting it to be much better, mainly because it’s an impressive cast and I generally love heist films, which unfortunately this barely is. My expectations were probably a little high due to all the positive reviews I’d heard, so I hope my lowering of your expectations leads to a more enjoyable viewing experience for you.

  7. Pingback: The Wolf of Wall Street | Life Vs Film

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