Last Friday night my friends and I made the spur of the moment decision to go and see David O. Russell’s new film American Hustle (2013). The all-star cast (featuring the likes of Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper) promised a riveting film following the “last con” for con artists Irving Rosenfeld (Bale), a middle-ages overweight and blading man, and Sydney Prosser (Adams), a vivacious young woman with a taste for risky business ventures. The couple are forced to work for the FBI to avoid jail time and as such, are forced to work with the wild and unpredictable Richie DiMaso (Cooper) to bring down corrupt politicians (Renner’s character Mayor Carmine Polito) and ultimately, the mob. I don’t want to give the plot away so I won’t delve too much deeper into the story but as you can imagine, tense situations and vulgar language ensued with a barrage of predictable plot twists and a typical cameo of Robert De Niro as a the ever-allusive mob boss.
I have to admit when I first saw the trailer for this film on YouTube, I was pretty stoked and I couldn’t wait for the release date. I got the impression from the trailer that it would be a fast-paced action-drama film with an absolutely stellar cast and an interesting view of the world according to con artists. So I got my ticket and my popcorn, got comfortable in my chair and eagerly anticipated the start of the film. Two and a bit hours later, I emerged disappointed. While each actor gives a great performance and David O. Russell does a great job of directing, I thought that the overall pace of the film was too slow. I was more focused on how uncomfortable my seat was making me than the story. I felt like there was nothing new or exciting about the overall story line and I know that all films have to follow a certain narrative trend but I was neither shocked nor surprised by the events portrayed in the film. Now I’m a HUGE film lover and for me to sit through a film and be thinking “DEAR GOD when will this be over?! Is this the worlds longest movie?!” probably isn’t the ideal or intended response the director was looking for. It’s a rare thing for me to have this reaction to a film that I was really looking forward to seeing so I was rather taken aback when I departed the cinema with “Thank God that’s over!” running through my less-than-impressed brain. What is a 138 minute film could have been reduced, in my opinion, to 90 minutes and still get the point across while also encompassing all the directorial flourishes attributed to a O. Russell film. I was not what you would call a “happy chappy”.
Now that what I believe to be the cons (oh yeah, I did that) of the film have been identified, it’s time to look at what I believe to be the pros of American Hustle (2013).
As I mentioned earlier in this post, the performances given by each actor were great. They each explored and maintained their individual character types and allowed the audience to easily follow character development and progression throughout the film. The rare moments that did get a bit of a giggle out of me was when Jennifer Lawrence’s character, Rosalyn Rosenfeld (married to Irving), had a bit of a melt-down and danced like a crazy person in her 1970’s living room in front of her young son and how she continuously seemed to be setting her home on fire. Particular attention must be also paid to the scene where she puts a metal take-out container in the “science microwave” and sets her kitchen alight. Classic. In addition to these things, the costume and set designs were excellent. Sure you wouldn’t catch me dead wearing anything either Sydney Prosser or Rosalyn Rosenfeld wore and Irving’s taupe is gross but without these elements, the film definitely wouldn’t feel like an authentic representation of the 1970s. So I applaud those clever people who got it right in the costume and set design departments.
The sheer size of the collated acting and directorial chops (Academy Awards nominees and winners, Golden Globe nominations and winners) was enough to get me, and no doubt thousands of others, through the cinema door, wanting to see American Hustle (2013) but upon re-entry into the real world, I was left deflated and disappointed. Judge for yourselves though.