American Hustle reviews

User avatar
Johnny Guitar
Assistant
Posts: 503
Joined: Sat Jan 18, 2003 5:14 pm
Location: Chicago

Re: American Hustle reviews

Postby Johnny Guitar » Sat Dec 28, 2013 3:29 pm

ITALIANO wrote:Of course it may still turn out that I love it, but I wonder - will I see a truly good American movie this year?!


I'd say Computer Chess, Upstream Color, At Berkeley, Sun Don't Shine, The Unspeakable Act, Before Midnight, and Museum Hours (this last one only kind of American) are all worth a look if you haven't seen them.

Big Magilla
Site Admin
Posts: 14622
Joined: Wed Jan 01, 2003 3:22 pm
Location: Jersey Shore

Re: American Hustle reviews

Postby Big Magilla » Sat Dec 28, 2013 11:03 am

Uri wrote:I can see why it won in NY – for a bunch of elderly cinephiles who were young and around town during the ‘70s golden age of American Cinema (and for those who are not old enough but wish they were too) this film is pushing all the right nostalgic buttons.


Except that it doesn't resonate with "elderly" cinephiles, more like middle-aged cinephiles who like the director, born in 1958, who were too young to fully appreciate the decade and remember it through the eyes of pubescents and adolescents who remember only the big hair and outlandish fashions which actually date back to the late 1960s.

The New York win could also be a vote against The Wolf of Wall Street which, like American Hustle, a title it might also have been given, is a comedy about not very nice people, but unlike The Wolf of Wall Street, makes them somewhat likeable and relatable. Mostly, though, the vote was about perseverance. 12 Hours a Slave was the choice of the majority going in but could not prevail against the avid upstarts with stronger bladders who sat through the exhausting five hour marathon balloting process.

It's not a great film by any means, but it's not a bad one if you're not expecting too much. Silver Linings Playbook was oversold as being something more than a film about disagreeable people who yell a lot, which it wasn't, but this film is not being oversold. It is what it is, and that's refreshing. The Wolf of Wall Street, though, oy vey. I can understand why Leo DiCaprio wanted to make the film - it's an actor's showcase, but I can't understand why a director would willingly indulge him - not even Scorsese. Three hours of excessive behavior is about two hours and fifty-seven minutes too much. It doesn't take more than three minutes to establish that these characters were assholes. The rest is just wallowing in it.

Uri
Assistant
Posts: 965
Joined: Wed Jan 01, 2003 11:37 pm
Location: Israel

Re: American Hustle reviews

Postby Uri » Sat Dec 28, 2013 5:42 am

ITALIANO wrote:
Bog wrote:Italiano and Uri are going to be infuriated at all the hubub surrounding this film (not necessarily performances)...


Uri has seen it already and we talked about it on the phone, so now I know what I must expect from this one (he basically agrees with you).

Of course it may still turn out that I love it, but I wonder - will I see a truly good American movie this year?!


Well… count me in with the meh camp, which, I’m happy to see, has quite a few legions round here. It’s a huge improvement over SLP, but that doesn't say much. In my book, that is. I can see why it won in NY – for a bunch of elderly cinephiles who were young and around town during the ‘70s golden age of American Cinema (and for those who are not old enough but wish they were too) this film is pushing all the right nostalgic buttons. It will be interesting to see what our resident expert witnesses (only Magilla and Tee, since Mike Kelly is not her any more) have to say about the way the time and place are captured here. For me, AH fails short, at least from this aspect. The film just wasn't, well, dirty enough. The ‘70s were gritty, messy, explicit and dripping with all kind of fluids, bodily and other. And here we get a – sanitized is not really the right word – tamed down version of it. And since this piece is not really about the actual plot but about the way characters operate and behave – and look – casting and acting are key here. And it’s problematic.

The world as we know it was revolutionized by “the ‘60s” which brought on us this concept of eternal youth. We are now live in a civilization in which people are supposed to be teenagers their entire lives. And they do. Ok, not in real life, but in pop culture they do. And it’s nowhere as evident as in the way movie stars are supposed to maintain not only their youthful looks but also demeanor. Now - one of the more challenging tasks in making a period piece is to get the way people look and act right. And though that youth obsessed culture was already in motion, most of the people depicted in AH would not be fully affected by it. They would look like adults, or rather, unfortunately, since it was the ‘70s, adults who put on contemporary style. And they’d look decidedly older than people their age nowadays. We don’t get it here, so, it almost has that slight sense of a high school kids putting on a show. The most obvious example is not only Lawrence (dah) but even more so Renner, who looks lost as a Jersey mayor (not to mention a father of five adult kids).

And while the makers and designers where working hard at getting the look right, a certain lack of self consciousness about their bodies people had back then is not naturally inhabited here – Bale seems to be shouting at us to pay attention to his belly and hairdo, Adams’s (admittedly very ‘70tishly moderate) cleavage is not just there but is constantly being celebrated with a knowingly wink. This laborious attention to details prevents the film of having a sense of this off hand sluttiness which was typical of the time and is essential for it to really work. It’s just not really sexy. And since it’s a heterosexual take on a heterosexual story set in the ‘70s (regardless of rumors about some of the film stars, although that might have something to do with the film’s lack of sexual urgency), it should be all about the ladies. Alas, the fact that Elizabeth Rohm comes of best in this department is not a good sign. Lawrence’s wholesomeness (and, indeed, age) is not really best serving her performance. (She does have an easy, good humored air about her which is likeable but not enough). As for Adams – she’s a very bland actress, and unless this blandness is addressed and used (as it was last year in The Master), she just blends in with the wallpaper. She was 38 when this film was made, as was Raquel Welch back in 1978. I do think I rest my case, don’t I? Adams is not a bad actress, but she just doesn’t register enough, certainly not here.

But overall, AH was a rather watchable movie, so the way I see it, in this day and age it does make it a top contender, at least as far as major American films are concern.

ITALIANO
Emeritus
Posts: 3736
Joined: Mon Jan 06, 2003 1:58 pm
Location: MILAN
Contact:

Re: American Hustle reviews

Postby ITALIANO » Sat Dec 28, 2013 4:38 am

Bog wrote:Italiano and Uri are going to be infuriated at all the hubub surrounding this film (not necessarily performances)...


Uri has seen it already and we talked about it on the phone, so now I know what I must expect from this one (he basically agrees with you).

Of course it may still turn out that I love it, but I wonder - will I see a truly good American movie this year?!

Bog
Assistant
Posts: 763
Joined: Thu Jan 02, 2003 12:39 am
Location: United States

Re: American Hustle reviews

Postby Bog » Fri Dec 27, 2013 10:04 pm

Italiano and Uri are going to be infuriated at all the hubub surrounding this film (not necessarily performances)...

These were my thoughts as my wife and I were walking out of the theater on Christmas Eve. We were wowed at how little this film amounted to after nearly 2 and a half hours. The best way to describe this is extremely underachieving and not nearly what should amount from what I consider to be good to great acting all the way from Bale and Adams down to Rohm and Huston. The dude can definitely get performances out of his stars, but my God have the last 2 been frustrating as films. JLaw and Amy Adams are basically fantastic in my opinion...it's a shame they're stuck in a film that has no idea what it is doing...whatsoever.

I'm already anticipating how disappointing it will be when Russell is cited multiple times (which he will be) and Bale and Adams are left off (likely also the case) ...a sad injustice. Like Flipp...it isn't even I had a bad time, I had a pretty good time actually...but THIS is an Oscar front-runner...holy crap!

User avatar
Johnny Guitar
Assistant
Posts: 503
Joined: Sat Jan 18, 2003 5:14 pm
Location: Chicago

Re: American Hustle reviews

Postby Johnny Guitar » Fri Dec 27, 2013 4:21 pm

*Very vague and minor spoilers.*

I thought the movie was just OK. It's certainly being marketed as a rip-roaring, vaguely Scorsesean period jaunt, only with more overt comedy. But a lot of the scenes are just long, quiet, and talky. There's not much narrative propulsion - I don't say this as either praise or criticism, it just took me by surprise. I'm not certain it all really goes much of anywhere interesting although I appreciate the fact that this is a movie whose biggest "gimmicks" are mainly a bunch of awful hairstyles - i.e. it respects the audience much more than most movies.

Jennifer Lawrence is one of my favorite young actresses today; Amy Adams, on the other hand, is like kryptonite to me. I find her boooooorrrrriiing in almost every role she plays. She's not awful here but really I've forgotten a lot of her already. I could probably come up with some valid reasons for why she doesn't work in this or that example, but when it comes down to it I think I have to admit it's just a strange and irrational aversion. But Lawrence, as I would have guessed and as Flipp says, steals the show. She's so entertaining, but (performance-wise) does it all in a very intelligent way - like the way she's always shifting psychologically, as in the scene where Bale confronts her about opening her big mouth to her lover. It's a well-written part that she animates vividly. I don't think any of the other characters quite work this well. Bale come close, IMO.

It's a decent film but I wouldn't expect it to win any big Oscars. Seems like a tailor-made also-ran, the kind of thing that's slightly "edgier" than whatever wins BP.

User avatar
flipp525
Laureate
Posts: 5572
Joined: Thu Jan 09, 2003 7:44 am

Re: American Hustle reviews

Postby flipp525 » Fri Dec 20, 2013 11:20 pm

This might've actually been the performance for which Jennifer Lawrence should've won her Oscar. She steals every scene she's in; she's just deliriously enchanting throughout. (Loved her cleaning the house while singing "Live and Let Die"). And, my god, Bradley Cooper is so damn funny. I'm surprised he hasn't been singled out more this season. Jeremy Renner is a total plot point character and has nothing to do (I was distracted by how old his children were). He doesn't even succeed in believably portraying a heterosexual man in this movie, let alone some charismatic mayor who people would trust.

American Hustle is very entertaining. While I had some issues with the overly-stylized spots in the beginning, you start to just go with it. It's a pretty confident tone. With that said, the narrative seems pretty debilitatingly incoherent at times. I felt like I was watching a series of acting classes strung together to make a movie. It's like a series of "actor moments." There's just something...missing. And I'm a little baffled by all this screenplay nomination talk. It's not a fully constructed, brilliant screenplay by any stretch of the imagination. Why two attractive young women would be irresistibly drawn to a yucky charm-free sleazebag, such as the one that Christian Bale plays, was a big flaw in the script for me. He looked like he needed a flea bath.

Amy Adams gives a great lead performance and looks fantastic. There's something really touching about her work in this film; her performance at times seems to be aiming for a different, more subtle picture than the one she finds herself trapped in. It was really fun to see her let loose compared to some of the characters that have defined her career in the past (what a turnaround from last year's work in The Master, for example). The scene where her character is introduced at the pool party was very memorable and made even more so by the Duke Ellington accompaniment. Women everywhere are going to be looking for that vintage bathing suit. I can definitely see her getting a "Best Side Boob for an Actress" nomination.

I can (kind of) see what all the buzz is about now. With a "The Sting" worthy reveal at the end. The performances save a so-so script.

As a brief addendum: Elisabeth Rohm as Jeremy Renner's wife puts in great work in this movie in a small, seemingly ancillary role. But I really thought that she was believable in ways that some of the main characters were not. She's one of the few actors in the movie who actually seems to be playing somebody real. I'd venture to say that she might've even made Damien's year-end shortlist for Best Supporting Actress. (It feels like a performance he might've cited.)
Last edited by flipp525 on Mon Jan 27, 2014 3:16 pm, edited 1 time in total.
"The mantle of spinsterhood was definitely in her shoulders. She was twenty five and looked it."

-Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

ITALIANO
Emeritus
Posts: 3736
Joined: Mon Jan 06, 2003 1:58 pm
Location: MILAN
Contact:

Re: American Hustle reviews

Postby ITALIANO » Fri Dec 06, 2013 4:51 am

Uri wrote:
Mister Tee wrote:I'm not sure "Do you know people like this?" is much germane. I don't know people like in most Coen Brothers' or David Lynch movies, or Sam Shepard or Pinter plays. It's whether I accept them as compelling characters that makes the work stand or fall. For me, the craziness of the family arguments in Silver Linings rings wildly true (fresh in my mind, having just spent a holiday with a houseful of cousins). Your mileage may vary.


It’s not about knowing people like the characters presented by these artists but recognizing in them basic, true and most importantly challenging representations of human issues, ideas, inner demons presented in an illuminating way. Maybe a better way to put it is that for some of us, our problem with SLP was that it was impossible for us to find most if not all of its takes on human behavior relatable or even believable. Maybe it’s a cultural thing, maybe it’s personality based, but I found it to be most annoying for being a film-as-a-pep-talk, and as is often the case with such talks, it may have been positively invigorating, but it was also insufferably avoiding real emotions (for they might be negative, God forbids), so it felt utterly fake. But that’s just me.



It's not just you. I mean, if now EVEN Silver Linings Playbook can be considered a good movie, then we can accept anything. We must draw the line somewhere.

Uri
Assistant
Posts: 965
Joined: Wed Jan 01, 2003 11:37 pm
Location: Israel

Re: American Hustle reviews

Postby Uri » Fri Dec 06, 2013 1:54 am

Mister Tee wrote:I'm not sure "Do you know people like this?" is much germane. I don't know people like in most Coen Brothers' or David Lynch movies, or Sam Shepard or Pinter plays. It's whether I accept them as compelling characters that makes the work stand or fall. For me, the craziness of the family arguments in Silver Linings rings wildly true (fresh in my mind, having just spent a holiday with a houseful of cousins). Your mileage may vary.


It’s not about knowing people like the characters presented by these artists but recognizing in them basic, true and most importantly challenging representations of human issues, ideas, inner demons presented in an illuminating way. Maybe a better way to put it is that for some of us, our problem with SLP was that it was impossible for us to find most if not all of its takes on human behavior relatable or even believable. Maybe it’s a cultural thing, maybe it’s personality based, but I found it to be most annoying for being a film-as-a-pep-talk, and as is often the case with such talks, it may have been positively invigorating, but it was also insufferably avoiding real emotions (for they might be negative, God forbids), so it felt utterly fake. But that’s just me.

ITALIANO
Emeritus
Posts: 3736
Joined: Mon Jan 06, 2003 1:58 pm
Location: MILAN
Contact:

Re: American Hustle reviews

Postby ITALIANO » Thu Dec 05, 2013 3:49 pm

Mister Tee wrote: But I'm not for a moment inclined to label them idiots because of that.


I didn't either.

But I must confess: that movie for me is just... "beyond good and evil". It's just subjective, as you said - but really, it belongs to a different universe.

Mister Tee
Laureate
Posts: 5757
Joined: Wed Jan 01, 2003 2:57 pm
Location: NYC
Contact:

Re: American Hustle reviews

Postby Mister Tee » Thu Dec 05, 2013 3:39 pm

OK, not going to spend much more time on this, because we're a a pineapple standoff (as in, don't try convincing me this is great pineapple, because pineapple in general makes me gag). But to address a few points:

I of course didn't say Silver Linings was LIKE those other movies; I just pointed out that, structurally, they rely on the same happy-ending that I think would be considered "reassuring", so we obviously judge films on more than bare bones content description.

I'm not sure "Do you know people like this?" is much germane. I don't know people like in most Coen Brothers' or David Lynch movies, or Sam Shepard or Pinter plays. It's whether I accept them as compelling characters that makes the work stand or fall. For me, the craziness of the family arguments in Silver Linings rings wildly true (fresh in my mind, having just spent a holiday with a houseful of cousins). Your mileage may vary.

We all run into movies that are highly touted but not only strike us as not just not-so-great but actively bad -- for me, Little Miss Sunshine and The Wrestler are major recent examples. There are many people here who like one or both. I'll never understand their point of view. But I'm notfor a moment inclined to label them idiots because of that. I simply recognize that tastes differ, and that once in a while even someone with whom I'm often in accord will simply see black where I see white.

ITALIANO
Emeritus
Posts: 3736
Joined: Mon Jan 06, 2003 1:58 pm
Location: MILAN
Contact:

Re: American Hustle reviews

Postby ITALIANO » Thu Dec 05, 2013 2:44 pm

Mister Tee wrote:It's in the end a shnook-gets-girl-of-his-dreams movie, but so are The Apartment and The Graduate.


You-just-killed-me.

No, really - The Fighter, ok, I should see it again but it's probably not stupid - just not exactly memorable, but I've seen worse movies and the actors arent badly directed.

But Silver Lining Playbook is NOT like The Apartment and The Graduate, sorry. It's a movie without even just ONE recognizable human being - like a (not very good) sit-com. Seriously, have you ever met people like those? And nothing is unexpected - the opposite actually. I don't know, I don't want to insult those who liked it, maybe it's me - but honestly, either I am stupid OR that movie is.

Mister Tee
Laureate
Posts: 5757
Joined: Wed Jan 01, 2003 2:57 pm
Location: NYC
Contact:

Re: American Hustle reviews

Postby Mister Tee » Thu Dec 05, 2013 2:18 pm

[quote="ITALIANOMmm... Really? SOME of the other directors you mentioned, maybe (though I'm not sure), but not Russell. Those movies you mentioned here aren't just masterpieces, they are also intelligent, and in many ways surprising, comments on the genres they officially belonged to. Movies like The Fighter and Silver Lining Playbook never challenge, they just reassure.[/quote][/quote]
It comes down to, we have different views of the films. To me, The Fighter was only tangentially about a fighter winning a bout -- it actually caught me a bit off-guard when that happened in the final reel, because I'd seen it up till then as a movie more about family dynamics than anything else. And, as far as being reassuring rather than challenging...I guess I would say a movie doesn't have to be exactly either of those to be worthy; it just has to make me see something in a way I'd not considered before. And for me, The Fighter achieved that: showing how a young man could, in something of a passive-aggressive way, cause the various elements around him fighting for dominance in his life to blend enough so that he got what he needed from each to maximize his own life.

As for Silver Linings -- I'll just never understand what people here found to hate in it. It's in the end a shnook-gets-girl-of-his-dreams movie, but so are The Apartment and The Graduate. And, as a friend of mine says, it's a movie that (like Erin Brockovich does for Soderbergh) screams out that a director has found the human core in what could be a formulaic plot -- gliding past such contrivances as passing notes back and forth, and a wager on a dance contest, by creating wounded characters who can't help pushing ahead in unexpected, often counter-productive ways.

To me, these films ARE intelligent, and transcend their genres. (Not to claim either as a masterpiece, but to defend them as very worthy mainstream films, not something to be sneered at)

ITALIANO
Emeritus
Posts: 3736
Joined: Mon Jan 06, 2003 1:58 pm
Location: MILAN
Contact:

Re: American Hustle reviews

Postby ITALIANO » Thu Dec 05, 2013 12:49 pm

Mister Tee wrote:
ITALIANO wrote:
Mister Tee wrote: This is precisely the mode in which most of the great movies of the 70s were conceived and executed


Well but there is a difference between, say, A Clockwork Orange and Nashville AND The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook... For this last movie at least the words "populist entertainment" don't seem too far from the truth (The Fighter was more on the harmless side).

I haven't seen Huckabees though. And I know, of course, that David O. Russell can be good. He was, in the past. So I have some hopes for American Hustle.

You've selected out two films that, in narrative terms, pushed the envelope in the 70s. I'm thinking of The French Connection, The Last Picture Show, The Godfather, Cabaret, American Graffiti, Chinatown, Dog Day Afternoon, All the President's Men -- movies that worked within time-honored genres but elvated them by the work done within them. I'd argue that's what Russell (and the other directors I mentioned) do all the time.



Mmm... Really? SOME of the other directors you mentioned, maybe (though I'm not sure), but not Russell. Those movies you mentioned here aren't just masterpieces, they are also intelligent, and in many ways surprising, comments on the genres they officially belonged to. Movies like The Fighter and Silver Lining Playbook never challenge, they just reassure.

Sabin
Laureate
Posts: 6716
Joined: Thu Jan 02, 2003 12:52 am
Contact:

Re: American Hustle reviews

Postby Sabin » Thu Dec 05, 2013 12:31 pm

I think Huckabee's is terrific. It's strange to me that his most lambasted film because it's arguably the most personal thing this man has done. Even he doesn't seem to like it much these days, although after seeing his Q&A last night and watching his energy up close I'm inclined to say that anybody who doesn't like his movies needs but to see this man talk. Immediately, they'll say "Oh, that's why. It's made by this guy." He's nuts.

There is a lot to write about this film. Calling it a David O. Russell joint seems appropriate. It's a party at a breakneck 2.20 hours. It's totally nuts, occasionally shameless, but I like it a lot. Like with The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook (my favorite), at the end of its running time I felt elevated, pumped, jacked almost. It's a giant rollicking party of a movie full of characters, music (too full if you ask me), and camera movement. A brave member of the audience dared to ask him if he set out to try to make a Scorsese movie, which Russell denied, but the proof is on the screen. With The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook, he encouraged his actors to make the set their home, creating a Scorsese performance vibrancy, but his collaboration with DP Linus Sangren on American Hustle is in full-on Scorsese-mode in a way that I initially found distracting. The cumulative effect though is very much David O. Russell, largely because of the characters. With Silver Linings Playbook, I felt like I was watching a filmmaker's voice on-screen for the first time. American Hustle feels like the second of the one-two punch.

If the film ostensibly has a theme, it's about the masks that we wear but I'm not sure that's fair. The movie is about identity in the same way that The Departed is about identity: it's about something enough so that you can't say it's empty fun. Really the film is about characters who bounce off of each other and act like they're the stars of the movie of their lives. Everyone is good. The film might not know exactly what to do with Amy Adams. It expects that the opening montage will do some of the heavy-lifting for making sense of her character. I think she gives the best performance in the film. If there is a problem with the film, why it doesn't quite land it's because Christian Bale is playing the best performance of Nicolas Cage's career. Bale is good, no doubt, but everyone in the film is doing something slightly different than him. He's having so much fun with his costume and his glasses and his hairpiece, that he forgets to invest Irving with the same dreamer's psychosis that everyone else has. He always seems on the verge of saying "Ah, fuck it. I'm going back to the Bronx." What's being interpreted as a love triangle is really just Adams looking at her options for escape; because of casting choices, it's a bit confused. Amy Adams' needed a more skillful dancing partner. Bradley Cooper gives the second best performance of Nicolas Cage's career, and he's a much better fit. He's like a child in the anal stage of development, prone to temper tantrums and outbursts. There are times where he's very funny and other times (like a batshit scene at the end composedly mostly of him laughing) where he needs to be reigned in. You wonder "How the hell did this maniac get where he is?" and Russell smartly plays that off with a pretty terrific joke about him constantly abusing his mentor played by Louis CK. The answer is "because this guy is his boss."

I could see a scenario where all four of them get nominated. I could see a likelier scenario where the men are shut-out. I cannot envision a scenario where Jennifer Lawrence, to the consternation of many here, doesn't get nominated and it's hard not to see her win. Why consternation? Because less great acting than every time she is introduced in a scene she is always doing or saying something insane in a way that people really enjoy about her. If there is a problem with her character, it's that nobody calls her out on what she very clearly is: a person who doesn't know what she's thinking or doing one second to another, but just has a knack for survival. The film is sprinkled with terrific little character turns throughout. In the end, I'm not sure that Russell cares that much about ABSCAM but rather what it means for his characters. Bale's character is genuinely, for a good long stretch, often wordlessly, about setting up the first good man in power (Renner) he's ever met. That's about as much emotional heft as ABSCAM allows. I saw the film with a reader for Focus Features who read the original draft and is sending it to me. She feels loyalty to the original writer's vision. Without having read it, I'm inclined to say that he can cry on the Oscar he's about to win. Right now, I'm inclined to say this is your winner. In the same way that Argo, The Artist, and Slumdog Millionaire became more than what they are, American Hustle feels like your December ticket, a movie that voters watch, love, and nostalgize (which I'm being told is not a proper word) and fill in the gaps on the screen in their minds.

Have to go to work now. I'll end on how I started this review: there's a lot to write about the film, but! if it's hard to write a review about this film, it's because it lends itself more to observation than critique. Except for those who don't like it.
Philomena is one of the year's best Philomenas!


Return to “2013”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest