'American Hustle' is another movie that I've really wanted to see for a long time. It's probably because I love the 70s, or whatever. When it was finally released in good ol' England, it did not disappoint.
Coming into this with only having seen 'Silver Linings Playbook' as some of O Russell's previous work, I didn't really know what to expect. Although that was very good, it is completely different on many levels, so whatever this was, it was going to be fresh.
As not to spoil anything, I won't go through the film scene by scene, but I have to say this film met and (to an extend) exceeded my expectations. There was noting I didn't like about it, because everything and everyone was just so brilliant. First off, the acting was superb. The improv that the actors pull off made it all so much more real, because you felt that they were just letting themselves run with the story and script. When the tensions rise (which frequently happens during this film), you feel for these characters, because for a second they really are Riche Dimasso or Irving Rosenfelt. It also added a lot of the humour, which showed that, although it primarily felt like a drama, it didn't take it's self too seriously, which is so fresh and needed in Hollywood right now.
For me, J Law's acting talent stole the show. I saw her in 'Silver Linings' and the first 'Hunger Games' a while back, so again I didn't have any real preconception of what she would be like. But in this movie, her acting was just on another level. Every scene she was in carried so many emotions, and you'd couldn't tell if she was going to explode at any point (a'la the bathroom scene with Sydney). The things her character gets herself into in this film, even while she's still at home, are just out right slap your knee hilarious, especially the argument scenes.
Direction was a large positive for this. The way the camera moves is so subtle yet so effective. There are a lot of clichés that it could have fallen into, but O' Russell was very clever, and everything about the way he directed it was planned out perfectly. The camera seems to interact with the characters emotions, so you're really seeing this on more than one level.
The story was another element that made it so brilliant for me. Well, that was at the end. I loved the way it ended. It's just as the film plays out, you're so engrossed in the amazing performances, style, characters and humour, it gets hard to keep track of the story. Not on the level of the new 'Doctor Who' episodes, which have plot lines so ridiculously convoluted. You weren't supposed to get it at the start, as your just thrown into this world of eccentric, self absorbed con-men. You get the general idea throughout, with what's happening and what they're aiming to do, but when it got to the end, I didn't get some of the things they were taking about that seemed important ('Did I miss all of that? Was that when that old guy walked in to the cinema with a 20 year old something girlfriend and I lost focus for a bit?'). I heard that O' Russell was more focused on the characters, and lost a lot of story to allow room for Improv, so I guess it's OK if you don't get all of it. I didn't and still thoroughly enjoyed it. There are times during the film when I thought "Wow, that's a brilliant way to end a movie", and then it suddenly carried on and wasn't over, and the story got even more compelling. The way it wrapped up was a feat of true story telling.
I'm not one for movies about money and mafias and cons and all that, but aside from that, it's just as much a tale about relationships and what people are really like. The story of Irving's relationship with his family and Sydney plays out so well, and you feel things for them as their relationship changes, and when Cooper's character enters their unique workforce.
This film really benefited from the actors improvising, as it lead to some very funny moments. Obviously meaning to be funny, like the scene on the the jet and Roselyn's explanations for everything Irving throws at her. I meant that scene where she cleans the house to Live and Let Die is hilariously awkward to watch, with her little son just sitting there and watching his mom give an angry yet powerful rendition of the Wings song.
Bale portrayed Irving brilliantly. When things get tough for him, he excellently shows how a man of his status and ideology breaks down, bit by bit. You start the realize that even though he's so eccentric and rich, he still only human. I think Jeremy Renner deserves credit for that too. Not in the sense that his character goes through the same stuff as Bale's, but in that he was played with so much heart and honesty.
Something that hasn't been seen for a while in Movie-Land, 'American Hustle' is a unique film that gets in the audience up close and personal with every main character they see. The story could have been clearer, but heck, 'Badlands' had little story and that was brilliant too. It makes way for the improvisation, which adds so much and another dynamic to the story and experience.
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