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J.A.A. Purves

American Hustle (2013)

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New trailer

 

 

 

And for the search engines: David O. Russell, Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, and Robert De Niro (IMDB lists him in the credits even though he's nowhere in either trailer, which I find fascinating.)


"Anyway, in general I love tragic artists, especially classical ones."

"Even the forms for expressing truth can be multiform, and this is indeed necessary for the transmission of the Gospel in its timeless meaning."

- Pope Francis, August 2013 interview with Antonio Spadaro

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I'm actually looking forward to this one more than most of the other hyped films this month.

 

Christy Lemire:

David O. Russell out-Scorseses Martin Scorsese with "American Hustle," a '70s crime romp that's ridiculously entertaining in all the best ways. "American Hustle" is actually a more thrilling and satisfying experience than Scorsese's latest, the upcoming "The Wolf of Wall Street," which similarly was inspired by the true story of an irrepressible financial huckster. The unreliable narration and urgent zooms, the 1970s milieu of flashily dressed scammers and mobsters, the carefully chosen pop songs underscoring key emotional moments: all those recognizably Scorcesean signatures are there, yet Russell infuses them with his unique brand of insanity ... The film is probably also a tad overlong, but it's a blast to hang out with these people, and Russell creates such an infectiously zany vibe around them that if even you notice the running time, you probably won't mind ...

 

David Denby:

David O. Russell’s “American Hustle,” an intentionally overripe comedy about corruption, duplicity, loyalty, and love, is a series of astonishments ... Russell has both simplified and juiced a tale that is already close to preposterous; he has created a fantasia told from the point of view of two con artists, a man and a woman (based loosely on Weinberg’s mistress). Not just the crooks but virtually everyone in the movie seems slightly crazed by ambition. The one person who’s ordinary in temperament, an F.B.I. supervisor played by Louis C.K., could be a member of a different species. We seem to have stepped into the magical sphere—Shakespeare rules over it and Ernst Lubitsch and Preston Sturges are denizens—where profound human foolishness becomes a form of grace ...

 

Some of the behavior onscreen is so outlandish that you wonder, at times, if the entire movie isn’t a put-on, but then a surge of feeling, or an idiosyncratic moment, brings you back to the common ground of devotion and to the mysteries of human character. Russell has finally reached the kind of sustained heightened excitement that he has been working toward ever since he directed the satirical “Flirting with Disaster,” in 1996. (He reached it in parts of “The Fighter.”) What he puts on the screen here is faster than life and more volatile than common realism, but it’s definitely not farce. His characters act stupidly because they want something desperately, and his actors, all of them taking enormous risks, form an ensemble that is the equal of anything from Hollywood’s golden age ...

 

Justin Chang:

... a heartfelt inquiry into the allure of false fronts and the universal need to be loved for one’s true self. In that respect, there’s a dash of Preston Sturges’ “The Lady Eve” (Adams’ on-and-off British accent plays like an homage to Barbara Stanwyck) in a picture that otherwise suggests an Altmanesque spin on “The Sting.” If the result can feel like as much of a mess as that description implies, it’s a rich, glorious mess, and its underlying craftsmanship is apparent in the characters’ beautifully delineated relationships, each with its own jangly rhythm and distinct feel ...

 

Manohla Dargis:

... Only the director here is David O. Russell, who, more than any other contemporary American filmmaker, has reinvigorated screwball comedy, partly by insisting that men and women talk to one another. To that end, that chatter, written by Mr. Russell and Eric Warren Singer, is fast, dirty, intemperate, hilarious and largely in service to the art of the con, specifically the Abscam scandal that almost incidentally inspired the story ... Mr. Bale has long been a great actor, if not an especially likable screen presence — in this, he’s the opposite of Ms. Adams and Ms. Lawrence, who are both talented and appealing — and he’s leaned toward cool, even cold characters, mask or no mask. It’s a pleasure to see him warm up, soften up, not only because he looks as if he were having a good time, but also because he’s extraordinary here. In the past, his performances have occasionally felt like a begrudgingly presented gift to the audience, as he offered us his technique while keeping the more recognizably human part of himself out of reach. Maybe Mr. Russell, who directed Mr. Bale in “The Fighter,” wore him down ...

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Just saw it.  I can echo the sentiment that Russell knows how to give Bale the opportunity to act.  Some critics have made fun of him for this one, but I think this is some of the best acting he’s done in years (while also taking into account his work in The Fighter).  You can’t help but love both Adams and Lawrence.  Cooper nails the fast-talking (possibly crack addict) FBI agent with delusions of grandeur.  I’m not sure when the last time was that I saw a politician portrayed sympathetically, but Renner is almost a Teddy Bear in this.  You can’t help even liking Louis C.K.  Sure, he’s the straight character - but he’s also the voice of reason in what turns out to be a power hungry office.

In a year where Scorsese seems to be interested in pushing moral (or obscene) boundaries, Russell’s film seems innocent by comparison.  It’s hard to describe except that this film possess both joy and exuberance.  The story isn’t really that complicated.  Instead, it’s humorous and a little crazy showing the places that people in the search for money and power are willing to go.  The most interesting part of the story is how Irving and Sydney both somehow seem more interested in moral standards of a sort than everyone else they’re working with.  But the story places second to the characters.  This is a film that creates characters that you grow to love - and it’s watching the characters that makes the film joyful.

 

Ultimately, I'm a sucker for films with good dialogue.  This is an example of a film with evidence that the director, the script writer and the actors are all taking great pleasure in the words their characters speak.

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Noah Millman:

 

Latest in the line-up of films I need to see again is David O. Russell’s current feature, “American Hustle.” Not because I was so delighted with it I can’t wait to see it again – though I did enjoy it very much, particularly for the performances – but because it is so confused about its genre, and I need to see it again to figure out if that confusion is due to an intriguing slipperiness or a disappointing sloppiness. . . .

 

Russell is, at heart, a director of screwball comedy. His paradigmatic film, to my mind, is “Flirting With Disaster.” But screwball isn’t really a contemporary genre – that’s not the kind of comedy we do these days – and his particular take on screwball is screwier than most. So, starting with “The Fighter,” when he set out consciously to reinvent himself as a commercially-viable director, Russell has directed films whose genres we can discern – and then infected them with his manic weirdness. In “The Fighter,” it was Christian Bale’s character who was the focus of that weirdness – but also the whole milieu from which he sprang. The story of Mark Wahlberg’s character was almost incidental to what the picture was really “about.” In “Silver Linings Playbook,” he created what is ultimately a pretty straightforward high concept romantic comedy – but he infected it by making his crazy lovers genuinely nuts, not just movie nuts. Bradley Cooper’s character is so disturbing in the early scenes of the film, that the happy ending inevitably rings kind of false. It’s there for structural reasons, not because it is entirely congruent with the film as it began.

 

Of course, another way to look at the same process is to say that Russell isn’t sneaking his own obsessions into films of various genres, but rather taking those genres apart by coming at them from his own weird angle. So, “The Fighter” is a boxing picture, with the same structure as all boxing pictures. But Russell is interested in the brother, the one who is never going to be a contender; by saying this story is more interesting than the story the boxing picture is supposed to tell, he’s questioning the boxing picture as a genre. Because the conventions of romantic comedy require the leads to behave like crazy people, “Silver Linings Playbook,” by involving actual crazy people, questions the romantic comedy as a genre (which is why the traditional ending feels a bit false).

 

Which brings us to “American Hustle.” The title announces this is an important movie: a movie about America. The subjects are greed, graft and grift. But what Russell is really interested in is the human vulnerabilities and neediness of his characters. . . .

 

The whole movie, far from being a Scorcesean paean to vitality, is in fact doing a root canal job on that kind of movie, burrowing under it and exposing the nerve, the pathetic desire to be loved and admired, the vulnerable need that is protected by a hard shell of vaunting ambition. (Amy Adams almost doesn’t have a shell, which is why her performance is actually the weakest of the bunch – I was never quite convinced that she could be as successful a hustler as she is when she’s always wearing her heart on her sleeve.)

 

But Russell wants it both ways – he wants you to enjoy the Scorcesean roller-coaster even as at every turn he’s showing you that his real pleasure tilt-a-whirl. And it turns out you can’t quite have it both ways. . . .


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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For what it's worth, this was sold out in Arkansas tonight; not sure if that means it's playing really well in the heartland, or if there is nothing else to do in Arkansas except go to the movies, but it sent us to see "Philomena" instead.

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I saw the movie this weekend. Initial grumbles: it's about thirty minutes too long and Jennifer Lawrence's character really doesn't work. And those two things are related; every one of her scenes is several seconds too long, just enough for her to demonstrate that, no, her character isn't a stereotypical plot-device. Except that she is, and the bits added on to make her less of one distract from everything else going on in the story. So she exists half-in and half-out of the movie, and that bogs it down badly.

 

Now, the not-griping stuff. It's good. Not great. But good. It's slippery; I was expecting a straightforward con movie, and as a result I wound up reading the whole movie as an elaborate con--which means that when the real final con kicked in, I was a bit blindsided. On consideration, though, I like the way it was handled.

 

[And in the useless response corner, I spent the first few minutes of Bale's first scene wondering what Tom Cruise's character from Tropic Thunder was doing in the movie]

Edited by NBooth

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Embeddable (and accessible to non-Americans and others who can't get Hulu):

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=52JwEQy00sA


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Finally saw this. On Letterboxd, I scribbled:

 

"It's like... perfumey. But there's also something rotten? And I know that sounds crazy, but I can't get enough of it."
 
The lines in this movie that are important are given ALL-CAPS attention when they arrive. And that one rang out louder than anything for me. Add to that the fact that Jennifer Lawrence goes on, saying it again but in different ways, more than once.
 
It's the American dream. Okay. Not so cleverly buried in some lines about the smell of nail polish.
 
And yet, I'd be lying if I said I didn't have a lot of fun with this totally bananas costume party of a movie. It's the first film since Russell's FLIRTING WITH DISASTER to tell me that the wild and crazy guy who made <i>that</i> movie is still around. (The day I interviewed Russell regarding I Heart Huckabees was the single most surreal experience of my 20 years of reviewing movies. Read about that here.) He's done some impressive films, but nothing with the playfully chaotic spirit of that find-your-birth-parents comedy that I loved so much. This brings it back. 
 
Sure, the story doesn't amount to much. Con men conning con men, and all of them being bested at their games by con women. We've seen all of that before. What sets this apart is the obvious fact that the cast is having the time of their lives. That kind of joy and enthusiasm is priceless at the movies, and it's one of the reasons I'm happy to include this and The Wolf of Wall Street among my 2013 favorites. 
 
But yeah, sure... there's plenty of rotten mixed in with the perfume. Who wants to live in a world that's all about conning each other to get what we want? The biggest problem with this movie is that it has the audacity to suggest that any kind of happy ending could come from all of this ugliness. Let the buyer beware.
 
P.S.  When Cate Blanchett wins over Amy Adams for Best Actress, it'll be just one among countless drops in my WTF, OSCARS? barrel. Adams is ferocious in this, and it's a much more demanding and complicated role than Blanchett's. I never knew she had this kind of performance in her. Wow.

 

 

Edited by Overstreet

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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Alex von Tunzelmann @ Guardian gives the film an A- for entertainment and a C+ for history, e.g.:

 

"Some of this actually happened," admits a title card cheerfully at the beginning of the film. It begins in 1978, with conman Irving Rosenberg (Christian Bale) arranging his complicated coiffure before acting as a fixer between an obscure sheikh and Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner), the well-loved and mostly decent mayor of Camden, New Jersey. In real life, the conman was Melvin Weinberg, and the mayor was Angelo Errichetti.

 

Readers of Robert W Green's biography of Weinberg, The Sting Man, might find its "hero" is less charming in real life. Director David O Russell sticks broadly to the outline of the real story, but shifts many of the characters' internal and interpersonal dynamics to focus on the practical and moral difficulties both of hustling, and of trying to out-hustle the hustlers. . . .

 

Rosenberg's cons are carried out in conjunction with his mistress, Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams), who masquerades as a British aristocrat. In real life, Weinberg's co-con-artist and mistress was a British woman called Evelyn Knight. He also had a wife, Marie, who was roughly analogous to Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence) in the film. In real life, Weinberg was in his 50s and Marie her late 40s, while Bale is 39 and Lawrence is 23; and a couple of the linking lines on the love pentagon that emerges are also invented. This film takes so much joy in sexing and glamming up the 1970s, though, that it seems a bit mean to tell it off for this sort of thing. Plus, the film-makers make Bradley Cooper wear his curlers onscreen, which means they can be forgiven almost anything. . . .

 

It is true that the FBI set up "fake sheikhs" – agents posing as wealthy Arabs – to con public officials. The price of oil rocketed in the 1970s, notably in 1973 and 1979, owing to the political situation in the Middle East. This made the oil-producing states extremely rich, though the Arab world still appeared mysterious to westerners – meaning it seemed plausible, as in the film, that some Mexican bloke in a dishdasha could pass himself off as an Emirati squillionaire. For once, the truth was even less convincing than fiction. The real FBI didn't even bother with a Mexican. They used an Irish bloke. He was agent Mike Dennehy, who may not have had strong Arab credentials but perhaps had acting in his blood: he is the brother of Golden Globe and Tony award-winner Brian Dennehy. . . .

 

Unfortunately, the film's happy ending is not accurate. It is true that Weinberg, like Rosenberg in the film, left his wife for his mistress – but the abandoned Marie, unlike Rosalyn, did not end her marriage by getting shacked up comfortably with a mobster. Instead, she hanged herself.

 

Emphasis added.

 

Oh, and that last link takes you to a People magazine article from 1982 which mentions that John Belushi was going to star in a film about the Abscam sting (but then he died; he would have had the Christian Bale role). Turning to Wikipedia, I find that said film was going to co-star Dan Aykroyd and be directed by Louis Malle.


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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How old is that Louis CK interview?


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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I haven't seen the film in question yet, but I did see a great deleted scene that nobody here has linked.

Edited by Kinch

Did George Clinton ever get a permit for the Mothership, or did he get Snoop Dogg to fetch one two decades late?

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Well, this makes a certain scene play differently [watch through to the end]:

 

Brilliant. So good it makes me like the movie a little bit more than I did after seeing it, when I found it a letdown.


"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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And now for the latest frivolous movie lawsuit...

 

 

It’s a very brief exchange (see clip below) in American Hustle: Jennifer Lawrence’s character Roslyn tells her husband, Irving, played by Christian Bale, that microwaves take the nutrition out of food. “That’s bulls--t,” Irving replies, and his wife shows him a magazine and says, “It’s not bulls--t. I read it in an article. Look, by Paul Brodeur.”

 

The real Brodeur is a science journalist who was a staff writer at The New Yorker for nearly 40 years. He’s even written books (such as The Zapping of America) about the dangers of microwave radiation. But he’s never said that they take the nutrition out of food, he claims in a new lawsuit.

 

.... a $1 million libel claim.

 

Story here.


Formerly Baal_T'shuvah

"Everyone has the right to make an ass out of themselves. You just can't let the world judge you too much." - Maude 
Harold and Maude
 

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