American Hustle: Sex, Con’s and Wide Lapel’s

ImageI’ll just get right to the point. Amy Adams stole the show in American Hustle.

I know what you are all thinking too “Of course you would say that, her “Sweater Puppies” were hanging out of every shirt she wore during every scene in the film”. Yes, I am not ashamed to admit my male biology played into this decision,  I don’t care. The 1970’s was all about drugs, sex and scandal, and Amy Adams captured this perfectly with her erotic display of female sexuality and essence. Her “Twin Cities” were almost too much of a distraction to the point where after the film I couldn’t really think of how to do this review without using 1,000 words to just talk about Amy Adams and her “Love Cushions”. Instead I will just use the previous 129 words just written to get it all out of the way. Forgive me; I am a guy that likes hot women. Sue me, or call me a misogynist pig. I really don’t care.

That was the great thing about the 1970’s, people wouldn’t get fired or sent death threats for speaking their mind. Instead today if you tweet something that was an obvious joke, the faux-outrage crowd comes out of their sensitive shanty’s and cry’s fowl demanding that having a sense of humor is now frowned upon. If you said anything deemed “racist” or “sexist”(those labels hardy existed back then because people were still sane) in the 1970’s you wouldn’t be censored or thought you were living in Orwell’s fictional nightmare where the right to free speech would be considered a human evil. Instead, people in the 1970’s knew how to take a joke because they had better things to do than whine and bitch about someone saying what everyone else is thinking but too afraid to say it. Basically, people had thick skins, had balls and weren’t slaves to Political Correctness and pleasing every ones whim. You can’t please everyone; it’s a waste of time.

American Hustle was the opposite of a waste of time. At first going into the film I was cautious because the trailers to me looked kind of corny and some of the acting chosen in the trailers seemed contrived and baseless. In addition, this film has been hyped to the extreme which always sends up flags of caution as I begin to escape into the story-line.

David O Russell’s winning streak shows no sign of stopping anytime soon. The filmmaker’s recent movies The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook received major international awards recognition. American Hustle is his latest, and it is already being hailed by critics as a leading candidate for Oscar’s Best Picture prize.

The film takes viewers back to the 1970s and the Abscam sting operation, in which the FBI uncovered an elaborate web of political corruption. Bradley Cooper plays a government agent hot on the case who enlists the help of a con man – Christian Bale, with a slouch, a beer belly, and an elaborate comb-over. Bale’s character has two women in his life: his neurotic, chain-smoking wife, Jennifer Lawrence, and a crazed mistress, played by Amy Adams.

American Hustle may inspire a lot of chatter about its glam Me Decade trappings – especially Cooper’s tightly-curled hair and Adams and Lawrence’s plunging necklines – but it is also propulsive in it’s storytelling.

David O Russell clearly shows his ability to give us something that is in complete control of its self yet isn’t afraid to be spontaneous. He employs voice-over narration, and then drops it when he doesn’t need it any longer. He dresses Bradley Cooper, as an ambitious FBI agent, in home-permed hair and garish ’70s fashions, and he gives him the liberty to act just as high-strung here as he did playing a manic-depressive in The Silver Linings Playbook. Much is extreme, and yet in keeping with an era of offensiveness and bacchanalian excess.

Jennifer Lawrence, as Irving’s young wife, embodies the movie’s tonal range. She is funny and alarming, often at the same time. Rosalyn, who tricked Irving into a marriage he can’t escape, is a absolute idiot who thinks she’s a genius, and a mammoth of selfishness who thinks she’s giving. Lawrence’s performance lets us see the twists and turns of her thought processes, even as she masters an Eastern dialect and an outsize floozy manner that’s the antithesis of her usual screen self. She’s noteworthy.

However for me, it’s Adams and Bale who are the film’s heart and soul, the honorable crooks in a sea of piranhas, the movie’s truthful core around which all the madness revolves. Adams, who goes through the movie almost flopping out of her low-cut ’70s gowns and blouses, is especially poignant playing an intelligent person with the least power and the most at stake. It’s captivating watching her think her way through as she does the most with a bad hand.

The re-creation of the 1970s will please everyone who was there and instruct everyone who wasn’t. Yes, it was crass. Yet the ’70s were like the 1920s, in that years later you can take one look and know the decade, and it wasn’t all ugly. The disco scene, in particular, is like a time travel, with not just the clothes and the lights done right, but also the choreography, which re-creates what you’d normally see on a Saturday night: people dancing in a line, with all the guys doing the same move over and over, revolving their two fists in a circle and then clapping their hands.

It brings you back to a time when people only gave a damn about having fun and not about what someone said on whose stupid twitter.

Absolutely refreshing.


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