American Hustle

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American Hustle

This new film from director, David O Russell, has been nominated for no less than ten Oscars, including Best Picture. In that category, it’s up against some stiff competition including 12 Years a Slave, Dallas Buyers Club, Her, Nebraska and The Wolf of Wall Street. That it has been included in this category has baffled film critics across the globe. Read any current film guide and expect to see the following line, ‘awards are stupid,’ swiftly followed by reminders that Ordinary People won the award for best film the year that Raging Bull was nominated and that Dances with Wolves beat Goodfellas. Plus it’s well known that the Oscars tend to favor films that show the American way of life in big, flashy, romantic techni-colour and that’s exactly what American Hustle does. Here’s the gripe the critics have: American Hustle is an okay film if you’re looking to be entertained by 70s fashion victims for an hour and a half but if you’re in the mood to watch a good film, don’t watch this one. The film has a flimsy plot and lots of big characters with big hair but there’s no substance holding it together, which makes it little more than an assault on the senses. But there is the fashion, and if anyone associated with this film should get an award, it’s the wig department. Jennifer Lawrence looks sultry with her blonde do and Amy Adams’s trashy locks are gorgeous; even Bradley Cooper’s pinched curls are cute. That said, a movie needs more than styled coifs to make it watchable.

David Denby, writing in the New Yorker, said: ‘A series of astonishments, and one of the most pleasurable American movies in years. The director David O. Russell takes off from the Abscam affair—a bizarre investigation in which the F.B.I., beginning in 1978, called on an indicted swindler from the Bronx to help ensnare corrupt congressmen. The elaborate sting involved two “Arab sheikhs” (both F.B.I. employees), allegedly eager to invest money in Atlantic City’s nascent casino operations. Russell both simplifies and juices up a tale that is already close to preposterous, and he sets the action in a magical space (ruled by Shakespeare and inhabited by Lubitsch and Sturges) that is faster and more volatile than common realism but not as loosely strung as farce.’

Willa Paskin, writing in Slate, said: ‘Noisy and fun movies sure are noisy and fun, but if that were the criteria for Best Picture, Michael Bay would have a hangar full of Oscars. This is a movie that believes a good screenplay is simply a collection of solid set pieces and one-liners that should otherwise get the hell out of the way of its actors. There are a number of very engaging performances in American Hustle—because performances are all the movie cares about. It’s like a boat with very beautiful sails and a hole in the keel. Keep looking up, maybe you won’t notice the whole thing is basically underwater.’

 

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