Thursday, January 16, 2014

American Hustle

This was the last film we saw in the theater, early New Year's Eve of 2013, ending an amazing year of filmgoing. All told we saw over 150 films in the theater, which got a little pricey after our favorite theater closed and the new one doesn't ever comp us.

But The Boy is eighteen now, and he's already beginning to scope out the trouble juggling the many factors that come with adult life. I like to think he'll remember this year; I know I will.

And it's only fitting, I suppose that we should see David O. Russell's American Hustle as the last film of the year, since when our favorite theater closed we saw Silver Linings Playbook a second time (a couple days after seeing this, which they did as a kind of farewell).

American Hustle features, again, Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence but the stars are Christian Bale (and his comb-over, which deserves a best supporting actor Oscar) and Amy Adams (and her cleavage, which deserves better than the Golden Globes pun that is all I can think of) as a couple of hustlers who get in too deep when a zealous FBI agent (Cooper) decides to use them for Abscam.

Abscam! Remember Abscam? It was...a thing...in the late '70s and early '80s. It was too hard to solve actual crime so the FBI got into the business of making crime and filming it so, you know, slam dunk at trial.

Impeccable acting from the top four (except for Amy Adams' dodgy accent which, while it was meant to be fake, was perhaps not meant to be quite so intermittent) and great support from Jeremy Renner (as Camden mayor "Carmine Polito"), Elizabeth Rohm (whom I did not recognize from "Law & Order") as his wife, and Louis CK as an uptight FBI agent trying to corral Cooper.

Over the course of two-and-a-quarter hours, the movie moves from vignette-to-vignette in a way that makes structural and dramatic sense, but lacks the urgency, focus and character arc of SLP. As a result, it's a fun time but not particularly moving. (Even though SLP was a fantasy in terms of how it depicted the sorts of problems its characters had, it was dramatically tight.)

The Boy and I liked it. I tried to talk The Flower into coming with us but she demurred.

One thing I've noticed about Russell's films of late is a near philanthropic feel: He seems content to draw drama not from good-vs-evil so much as many well-intentioned people who conflict in how they reach their desired goals.

Considering that our four heroes are scam artists (Bale and Adams), power drunk cops (Cooper and his pals), corrupt politicians (Renner and Rohm) and just plain dangerously nuts (Lawrence), that's kind of a feat.

Just like SLP's sort of breezy treatment of serious mental problems, this sort of looks a serious political and law-enforcement issues with a sort of shrug-and-smile, as if to say "People. What're you gonna do?"

Some folks aren't going to care for that sort of thing, but I think I prefer it to the far more common misanthropic cynicism, where everyone can be trusted to act in the worst possible way.

Winner of three Golden Globes.

Not a bad end to not a bad year.

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