5 Thoughts About American Hustle

Yes, I saw American Hustle tonight.  Yes, I have thoughts.  Yes, those thoughts are about the movie.

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5.  David O. Russell is no Martin Scorsese...or Paul Thomas Anderson.

After seeing this, go try and watch 'The Machinist', also featuring Bale.

After seeing this, go try and watch 'The Machinist', also featuring Bale.

Watching this, you can't help but think that Russell went in to his nearest Blockbuster (lol), grabbed copies of Mean Streets, Goodfellas & Casino...and possibly Shutter Island, if they had it in stock, and jotted down every filmmaking technique he could see into a three ring binder, which he then used on set.  Much like the characters in the movie, this feels like a thin, false veneer that wants everyone to think that it's Marty, but it clearly isn't.  It's akin to Christian Bale's combover in the film - sorry pal, everyone knows it.

4.  The parts are greater than it's sum.

Possibly the greatest ensemble cast ever seen on screen.  Not kidding.

Possibly the greatest ensemble cast ever seen on screen.  Not kidding.

The performances in this movie are really the only reason to watch it.  The story is muddy and uninteresting, although it is funnier than the trailer let on - a bit about a new microwave oven had me rolling.  Anyway, the actors take what little they can from the page and really run with it.  Amy Adams is terrific.  Bradley Cooper is as uncharismatic as it gets as a stale, needy FBI agent.  Jennifer Lawrence is hilarious and unpredictable.  Even Jeremy Renner impresses.  

3.  Where's the direction?

"What do you mean, I actually did The Hangover 3?"

"What do you mean, I actually did The Hangover 3?"

David O. Russell makes some very odd choices in this movie, and some of it seems like the work of an amateur, which he is not.  It feels as if he'd never lived in the seventies, but watched Saturday Night Fever and thought, "Shit, that was the 70's?  That's fun!".  He even throws in little tidbits about the period, as if to say, "hey guys, remember how this movie is set in the 70's?"  Half the time, the actors are in rooms looking confused, as if they'd just been beamed down from a spaceship wearing polyester, thinking, "where the fuck am I"?.

2.  This movie has a kick-ass soundtrack.

The soundtrack will have you tapping your...feet?"

The soundtrack will have you tapping your...feet?"

ELO, Elton John, The Temptations, Paul McCartney & Wings, Chicago, Steely Dan, America, Santana...I mean, the list goes on.  This movie had a great soundtrack, and it all fit pretty well.  Jennifer Lawrence singing 'Live & Let Die' is definitely one of the movie's highlights.

1.  I liked it, but I didn't love it.

"Thank god for me." Couldn't agree more, Ms. Lawrence.

"Thank god for me." Couldn't agree more, Ms. Lawrence.

I liked American Hustle because of the life that the actors brought to these characters.  The story wasn't great, and I can only imagine what something like this could have been with the real Scorsese attached.  He however, put out The Wolf of Wall Street, which felt like him saying, "No, dipshits...this is how it's done."  Overall, I think it's worth a watch, but I don't get the heaps of praise it's getting as a whole.  I don't think it deserves to be up there with the Best Picture nominations.  I don't think Bale deserves a Best Actor nod, although I do agree with Adams, Cooper and Lawrence grabbing noms.  Best director?  How many hands did he have to shake for this one?