American Hustle

American Hustle

Directed by David O’Russell

Grade: B

Goddamn, did American Hustle have a good trailer! Through a grandiose string of clips, one was treated to dancing, boozing, screaming in toilet cubicles, Jennifer Lawrence in a leotard and the phrase “only in America” punching onto the screen in sassy block letters – all in perfect unison to the beat of Led Zeppelin’s “Good Times, Bad Times.” Needless to say, I was pumped – the WHOLE WORLD was pumped. This was set to be the best hair/70’s/heist/social-commentary film of recent times.

Unfortunately, my love affair ended around 20 minutes into actually seeing the movie. American Hustle follows the story of greasy con artists Irving (a chubby, and proud of it, Christian Bale) and Sydney (a tiny, and proud of it, Amy Adams) as they are forced to work for a manic FBI agent (Bradley Cooper) in order to save their skin. Or something. I’m not completely sure. The script was very convoluted – and not because it was too intelligent for the average audience member, but because the plot was messy and the characters’ actions were often unmotivated. People were constantly changing their minds, or swapping allegiances, in a way that didn’t make them look complex, but just confused. It was a waste that O’Russell didn’t employ narration to help clear up the finer points of the heist, but instead used it intermittently to tell the audience things that we should be shown, not told.

However, some very skilled and hard-working actors saved this film: most notably Adams, as a deeply unhappy and highly-strung con artist, and Jennifer Lawrence, Irving’s unpredictable and obnoxious wife. In the wrong hands, both characters could have easily turned into two dimensional, typically vain glamour-babes, but Adams and Lawrence give them humanity and humour. And big-ups to O’ Russell for the interesting directorial style, fast-paced editing, badass music and use of slow motion. These things make the film fun to watch, even if you don’t know what you’re watching. American Hustle is a wasted opportunity for something greater, but still worthy of your time. And not just because of the wigs.
This article first appeared in Issue 1, 2014.
Posted 6:57pm Sunday 23rd February 2014 by Rosie Howells.