Friday, January 17, 2014

American Hustle Review

Fake it!

American Hustle
Director: David O. Russell 
Cast: Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams, Jennifer Lawrence, Jeremy Renner
Ratings: *** 1/2

I wanted to headline this review as the same I gave to The Wolf Of Wall Street- "Badfellas", for this film has so many things that reminded me of Scorsese's film and his filmmaking. Be it the style of introducing elusive or primary characters, the musical set-pieces that adds pulp to the narrative, the criminal period world that we are into where offenders and defenders often collide, or a voiceover that takes us through all this. Wait, there's also a cameo of Robert De Niro in the role of a mafia Victor Tellegio that involves a chilling murder scene in a jiffy flashback. Enough for a tribute to the septuagenarian auteur! 

That narration that makes the film talking to us, ala Goodfellas' Henry Hill, is through Christian Bale's Irving. Bale, known for going all method to suit the character's look, is seen gluing hair on his bald head in the very first scene and showing off his belly few scenes later. His appearance is fake. It has to be, for he is a conman. But we are introduced to a very real character with surreal emotions. He meets Sydney (Amy Adams); falls for her. He is not faking his love; we believe that though he has a wife and a kid back home in Long Island. Their relationship is dealt very gently and delicately. We sense that much affectionately in one of their escapades in a dry-cleaning closet where Irving tells she is like a secret to him and can tell her everything about him which only she could understand. This is where Russell owns this movie from Scorsese. Why Irving and Sydney clicked together instantly is reasoned by Irving (in a voiceover, of course) that she had an elegant vision like his. No wonder, they together team up to fake up a loan business to con people where Sydney is now Lady Edith from London.

What makes American Hustle different than any other recent con films around is that we are much into the characters than the plot. Though with an intriguing plot where usually the director would want his audience to be kept quite closely followed by the film, we are invested into the limited characters, their sub-plot and their detailing. Russell makes sure we skim through it swiftly without disturbing our interest (only disturbance would be incorrect and out-of-sync English subtitles along with all-over-the-places 'Smoking Kills' watermark in the Indian theatrical release prints of the film) and root for the right character in the end. It's after a long that I've sympathized for one in a commercial Hollywood film (revealing about whom would be a spoiler). But the one who stayed with me for long was Jennifer Lawrence's portrayal of a bold housewife Rosalyn; in whatever few scenes she has, she's the show-stealer. (As cliché as it sounds, but if this film ever gets a remake in Bollywood, she would be one Punjabi mom, may be Kareena Kapoor doing her part). 

The plot that surrounds this character-centered film is based on the famous Abscam (Arab Scam) of the '70s. To instance the era of '70s, we have enough musical references thrown around (Ellington, Beatles, Led Zeppelin). And this is what makes the hustle truly American.


Abhra Pal said...

Very rightly said - I saw the film last week and couldn't agreeing more with your views. So different a film than others in the same genre, focus on characters and Jeniffer Lawrence. Though I must say that I liked Amy as well.

Murtaza Ali said...

You have got a very nice blog... American Hustle is one of my favorite films for this year and your review does justice to the film.

I also run a movie site called "A Potpourri of Vestiges".

Please do check it out: