American Hustle (2013); Directed by David O. Russell

American Hustle

I don’t know, man. I’m not seeing it. I’m not seeing what others are seeing. I am on board with this article, although I didn’t like Amy Adams as much as he did. I enjoyed the performances tremendously, everyone is excellent. But Jennifer Lawrence strolls away with the picture. Easily. This wouldn’t be an issue if she were the lead but she’s not, she’s supporting cast with five scenes, tops. This is a problem. I kept wanting more of her, and wondered why we weren’t seeing this entire story through her eyes. Put her front and center.

I wrote a piece about Jennifer Lawrence a couple of years ago, pre-Oscar-win, and I am totally not surprised at what has happened in her career since I wrote that piece. She is a phenomenal actress, unpredictable, absolutely nuts, and 100% alive in every moment. You cannot anticipate what she will do next. The entire movie springs to messy messy life when she shows up. And the rest suffers.

Christian Bale is terrific. Bradley Cooper (my old classmate) is great, with his home-perm and his rat-a-tat delivery. Great role for him. Amy Adams is okay (and I’m a fan), but I felt that she should have been supporting, not lead. The character wasn’t interesting enough. I kept waiting for Jennifer Lawrence, and she’s not in it enough.

I adored Jeremy Renner, and the brief scenes we got of his home life were just great. They said it all about that character, and I LOVED Elisabeth Röhm, as his wife. We don’t get much of her either, but what we do get is rock-solid: an entire LIFE is there for us on the screen, and she does it with only a couple of lines. Hats off.

People are comparing this to Scorsese, and this baffles me. Where are they getting that? From the 70s sleaze of the look and feel? Yeah, but that’s just costuming. From the voiceover which is definitely reminiscent of Good Fellas? Not buying it. The only way this has anything to do with Scorsese is if you pair it with the words “poor man’s”.

Individual moments glitter with weirdness, but there are strangely dead patches that can’t be covered up. But seeing Jennifer Lawrence dancing around wildly with yellow rubber gloves on, all as her horrified little son sits on the couch watching … or seeing her stumble drunkenly down a hallway, falling out of her slinky white dress … now SHE is nuts, SHE really IS lost in the world being portrayed. I feel like I’m actually looking at something real when I’m looking at her. Hearing her go on and on (and ON) about her nail polish and how good it smells, with that whiff of something rotten beneath – “you know, it’s like flowers on top of GARBAGE” … and honestly, that nail polish monologue is really bad screenwriting, laying the theme out in an obvious metaphor … but Lawrence sells the HELL out of it. She sells the hell out of it so much that you want her to shut up about her damn nail polish already, but that’s the beauty of it. That’s how far she goes with it.

What would this film have been if it realized she was the lead character? What would have happened if it hadn’t privileged the male point of view and taken a side route? Well, it would have been a very different movie, albeit a better one.

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4 Responses to American Hustle (2013); Directed by David O. Russell

  1. Let me just say that the house of cards that is The Hunger Games hangs together because Jennifer Lawrence is so frickin’ good.

  2. Desirae says:

    I’ve been wondering if all the hype was going to turn out to be so much sound and fury – guess I’ll have to see it for myself. I appreciate that you always give your actual opinion, which I sometimes think isn’t true of many critics.

    I so want to steal Jennifer Lawrence’s look here, but I suspect I am too hobbity to pull off dirty disco glam. Alas.

    An interesting (or not) fact about the nail polish thing – the base notes used in many classic perfumes (musk, civet, etc) stink to high heaven. It’s the interplay between the fresher floral notes and the animalic base notes that gives the perfumes their richness. And then there’s jasmine: the molecules that give jasmine its heady, velvety smell are called indoles and they are also found during the decomposition process of just about anything. So she’s onto something with her “flowers over garbage”.

    • sheila says:

      Desirae – your perfume paragraph is why I absolutely love your comments on my site. Seriously. You are awesome.

      You’ll love this monologue, then – which goes on throughout the film – as she sticks her fingers under the noses of anyone close to her, saying, “Smell that? Smell how there’s somethin’ ROTTEN underneath??”

      People are just loving this movie – and it’s entertaining, I guess – great soundtrack, good performances – but just not seeing this Great Film.

      And I know, the HAIR!!! Amy Adams’ hair in the movie is awe-inspiring, not to mention her cleavage. I could never get away with either.

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