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41 of 54 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Another chaotic Russell script that will almost certainly grow on you, January 5, 2014
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This review is from: American Hustle [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
I had been looking forward to seeing American Hustle since it was announced. I almost saw it on release day, but I have an aversion to watching movies with people who are more concerned with noisily eating their weight in popcorn than watching what is on the screen. Yesterday's viewing was still pretty packed, but I am glad I didn't wait any longer. The movie is a lot of fun.

There's something a little jarring about David O. Russell's movies. I think it's the amount of conflict present between his characters. Have you ever been to a party or a gathering where people are all talking at once? It can be chaotic. There might be little gems of information hidden in the cacophony, but it's easy to miss. If you have seen The Fighter, you'll know that Russell's characters were often at each others throats. In Silver Linings Playbook, the central romance wasn't fully realized until the participants had survived numerous arguments. American Hustle feels similar in many ways to both those movies, although the canvas is broader and more colorful.

The movie opens with the statement, "Some of this actually happened." Well, the 1970s certainly happened, but I doubt that many people resembled the main characters in this story. The opening scene sets the tone by showing Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) fixing his hair. This is an elaborate process involving glue and a comb-over. IMDB states that Bale gained more than 40 pounds to play the role, and herniated two discs while perfecting his slouching posture. It's quite a transformation. That opening scene is a clear statement that American Hustle is not going to be a serious drama, and the movie rarely deviates from that initial statement of intent.

Rosenfeld is an interesting character. He spends most of his time conning people out of their money, promising loans for those who can make a down payment of $5,000. He meets Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) at a party and the two form a partnership and are attracted to each other. The plot becomes more complicated when an intended mark turns out to be FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper). To avoid going to jail, Rosenfeld and Prosser agree to help DiMaso convict four corrupt officials, starting with Mayor Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner).

What follows is a complete mess. Does Rosenfeld really love Prosser? Will he ever leave his wife Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence)? Is Prosser in love with Rosenfeld, DiMaso, both, or neither? The story contains a delightful cameo from another Russell regular, a science oven, a fake sheikh, great music from the 70s, fantastic performances from the main cast, twists, humor, intrigue, and plenty of laughs. Is it coherent? Not completely on the first viewing. Is it worth seeing? Absolutely.

Jennifer Lawrence isn't in many scenes, but she's fascinating every time she appears. Bale and Adams dominate most of the story, and are ably supported by Bradley Cooper, who has become a much better actor than I once imagined. It's interesting to see these Russell favorites make fun of themselves. Lawrence is borderline crazy, Bale almost unrecognizable, Adams more manipulative than most of her former characters, and Cooper willing to act like a fool. Is this the sort of chemistry that develops when directors continually use actors that they have worked with in the past? I love seeing directors such as Lynch, the Coens, Darabont and Tarantino going back to the same actors repeatedly. I think it adds something to the performances.

Like a Tarantino movie, American Hustle is more about style and the journey than the actual plot. It's simply fun to watch these characters interact. Don't expect a clever scam along the lines of The Sting. Just enjoy the wild ride. I already can't wait to see it again, despite its imperfections. I have a feeling that I will end up loving the movie once I have allowed it to sink in and with repeat viewings. The same was true for Silver Linings Playbook and Jason Reitman's Young Adult.

If you're perceptive and still reading, you might have noticed that I haven't talked much about the plot. This is one you need to experience without knowing too much going in. If you're a fan a Russell, or the main actors, you'll come away with a smile on your face. If you're not, this movie might just convert you.

For now, the overall score is 4/5.
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Showing 1-5 of 5 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jan 5, 2014 1:21:10 PM PST
'Fun' of this kind is a word that always appeals to this viewer and glad to have your feedback on the above. Friends are placing 'American Hustle' at the top of their list to see and it helps to have your input and summary on David Russell's latest, which sounds like a success. Was impressed to hear at what lengths Christian Bale went to prepare for his role of Irving Rosenfeld, and on a note of humor, it proves that men can be just as worried about their locks, as some women including myself when we go on a tear about a 'bad hair day' (I could even mention an anecdote about a senior partner, a fine lawyer, at an investment bank where I used to work who was wearing a devious toupee, but I won't).

As for bunko artists such as Rosenfeld, who continue to attempt to sell the Brooklyn Bridge to us, it is somewhat of an ongoing source of curiosity and apprehension as to why some of us become casualties of these financial vultures. The former must have the art of persuasion perfected to a fine hue and tone, most likely beginning at an early age. And, then they usually get caught and end up in the cooler, playing gin rummy for ever so long, leaving a trail of depleted victims in their path.

The cast sounds great, and it would be an interesting refresher course to revisit the 70s, music and all. It was a decade that had quite an edge to it in many ways, and one usually had to tread carefully in the City, especially navigating dangerous streets where one met at times the most interesting characters. But to sum it up, and after finishing what you had to relay, it seems to have all the necessary ingredients and flexibility to make for excellent entertainment. And while it may not be at first viewing quite coherent, your recommendation was both clear and intriguing. Many thanks for what promises to be a gratifying smile if one does not take the plot too seriously.

Posted on Feb 10, 2014 8:19:59 PM PST
Jeff Stover says:
Great review, Steven. Thanks.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 11, 2014 4:15:37 AM PST
Thanks Jeff.

Only 35 days until we can buy it on Blu-ray. I am looking forward to seeing it again.


Posted on Oct 3, 2014 4:31:30 PM PDT
BLS Carmel says:
Thanks for the great and thoughtful review.
I loved this movie.
Believe that the unifying question was the conflict between hubris and good and evil. Con men and women are clearly predators. However, one can be sympathetic to them when confronted with the incompetent hubris of the FBI agent, or a crazy and jealous wife. The FBI agent was less bad than he was incompetent and dangerous. Mexican masquerading as Arab Sheik amidst folk who had met actual Sheiks, really?
Did you notice that the structure of the final con was a copy of the con by the FBI agent that set the whole thing in motion? Pretty good plotting there.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 3, 2014 4:36:51 PM PDT
Good points. I may watch American Hustle again this weekend. Nebraska and The Intouchables last weekend.
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