Welcome to 2014, New Year, new beginnings and all that, so what do we have to kick off the year?
Oh…American Hustle, another movie that got nominated for a thousand things and everyone loves it…and I don’t.
By now you’re probably thinking I do this on purpose, just to be contrarian, or for the attention, but it can’t be helped. I see a movie for what it is and how it makes me feel, and American Hustle nearly bored me out of the cinema, but it was so strange because I felt like there was a good movie here, and maybe it was just not for me.
American Hustle stars Christian Bale as the con man Irwin who is married and has an adopted son, and technically only married so he can take care of his son. Amy Adams stars as his partner in crime and lover, Sydney or her fake name Lady Edith. It also stars Jennifer Lawrence as the typical soon to be ex wife of Christian bale, very Jersey Shoreish but more on that later. And last but not least, Bradley Cooper mostly known for the Hangover trilogy, plays a power hungry CSI agent named Richie. The movie starts at a scene later on the story and then it actually goes back to when Bale meets Amy. Ok, that flash-forward really helped the story a lot because…The filmmakers thought it would be interesting…? Pointless decisions aside, Bale falls in love with Amy and shows her his con loan company scheme, because doesn’t everyone show their new girlfriends their criminal activities? Well Bale knew what he was doing because she chooses to join rather easily and they live happily stealing money from people. Their perfect world is shattered by Richie, when he uncovers their scheme and only decides to let them go if they catch four con men for him.
Interesting premise, so why did this movie fail so much in our eyes? And let me get one thing of the grid, I like these actors, they are really good at their jobs, all of them. Amy Adams is a bit “wooden” in her deliverance sometimes but not always, and she can get her emotions out there. Okay, so let’s start outlining this movies shortcomings, and how they may have been improved, shall we?
First, the pacing is horrible. I can appreciate a slow pace but when you have a movie this big and you “slow pace” it, you make the movie longer than the Hobbit even if it isn’t. The reason for this were really long talks, and pointless scenes, like Christian Bale doing his hair or the 5 or 6 music montages they did. I can appreciate good music, but it’s a movie, not a playlist. They should have just kept the essential parts to build character and to outline the story and dialogues that are memorable and interesting. With so many dialogues in this film, hardly any sticked in my mind.
The convoluted story. We start out with a premise full of potential, and then we get to about 5 subplots and it just does a bad job of balancing all of this, i mean, lets count:
You have Christian Bale and Amy Adams, their relationship that Amy Adams causes some trouble in for no apparent reason, Richie and Amy Adams and their pseudo romance, Bale and his son and wife, their con scheme to catch the 4 guys which turns into a political hunt for corruption which leads to Jeremy Renner playing the perfect Mayor…, then Jenifer Lawrence, Bale’s wife gets involved with this other guy, and it just keeps going and going, introducing more characters and wives and family, and each one of these has a ton of talking scenes which aren’t really that interesting or fun to watch because of my next point. Why not stick with the simple story line when you couldn’t handle the messy type of plots? There is just so much character back-story that it’s just hard to explain the film. Sure it makes it all feel more full and real but I would argue its too full, way to full and without a proper conclusion to being such a heavy load of story.
The characters are unlikable, which at first surprised me because the characters sound good on paper, but when you make them douche bags and also unlikable douche bags to the point where you don’t care if Irwin (Bale) divorces at all, we don’t care if Amy Adams gets together with the CSI agent, we don’t care if Jenifer Lawrence gets hooked up with that other guy, do you even realize how this sounds so far?
It ends up sounding like a goddamn soap opera. I don’t know about you, but I came to watch the very real and very smart world of con men. That story is charismatic and fresh, not this. Marital problems and bitchy wives and an FBI agent who whines like a little boy because he is in a power rush of trying to be someone, which makes him learn nothing by the end by the way, completely ruining what could have been a great character sub-plot.
Maybe you were rooting for Jeremy Renner, the mayor, but he seems way too likeable to be real, he does seem like that guy who you would like to hang out with, doing everything for his family sort of puts corruption through different eyes and it’s a good idea overshadowed by everything else the film throws at you.
Amy Adams comes off as really unlikable, she screws around with the FBI agent because why? Because she all of a sudden feels that Irwin doesn’t love her influenced only once by Richie. It felt like “You shouldn’t love that guy” “Okay.” What the hell?
Again, I really did not expect any of this from a hustler film. There could have been a fun Bonnie and Clyde element in place but this pointless breakup was poorly motivated and leaves us once again throwing our arms up muttering “What?”
This movie has a lot to say about love and life, and none of it seems that interesting. With all these long talks about love and life and everything you might never want to know, it says nothing memorable at all. They really should have watched what Don Jon did and take a queue or two from that great film.
I’ve seen movies narrow down everything this film was trying to say for about 20 minutes, to a single quote. For example, Amy Adams has this thing where she doesn’t want to have sex with Richie until “It’s real”. Richie being a psycho douche bag keeps pressuring her to it until she hits a breaking point, so this takes up what feels like 30 minutes of award conflict. And now, The Watch(2012). ” Sex is for love.” Done! Freaking done! And the fact that it is a father saying that to a daughter resonates a lot more than two people who are cheating. Amy is cheating on a dude that is cheating on his wife that he doesn’t even love anymore, but she has some kind of hold on him? So what are you trying to get across, movie? What does this story amount to?
The answer seems to be near to nothing. It creates a big mess and leaves you with more of a headache than any kind of lesson learned or time well spent.
(And yes I just said The Watch is a smarter film than American Hustle, deal with it)
This is a little nitpick section just to show you how confused the filmmakers got with this over complicated story. Ok, first of all when we first see Amy and Bale, Amy mentions that he doesn’t like being touched. When we fully circle back to that scene, it’s never mentioned once in the entire film, did they forget?
For a film about cons, the cons are also not very impressive. I mean, real life con men can steal all your money before you know what happened, so Irwin’s plan? To lie about being a loan company and promise tons of money just for 5,000, and then never give said money, on the basis that it wasn’t approved or something. OK that might work but come on, he has an office, you’d think one guy would get pissed off enough to go beat him up and call him out to the police.
There’s a lot of editing timing issues and bad cuts, awkward yells and a scene of Jennifer Lawrence singing while vacuuming that is worthy of a genuine face palm, also they sort of overplayed the “sex appeal” in this film for example the low cut dresses with plenty of side boob shots to go around, which can be excused for aesthetics or something. If they didn’t use so many shots to take advantage of those dresses, or in a scene when they are searched before they enter a place, and they only show Amy Adams skirt being lifted up to show her legs. It’s not much but it sort of deteriorates the classy nature of the film, no?
I feel kind of sorry for Christian Bale, he is a great actor who always puts his body on the line, starving for the Machinist and pumping iron for Batman. For this film, he put on a lot of weight and a beer belly, he did an amazing job and he made this film more bearable. It feels like a waste of a good actor to me.
And my last point, the ending. I didn’t like it, because…Well I can’t spoil it but I think it ruined any moral or dramatic satisfaction it was setting up, because all these characters kind of represent different human flaws and they are all fairly bad people in their own ways. You could have made a good moral out of this like many films have, but you dint, it wasn’t even that clever or impressive, really.
All in all, I may be wrong. This movie really did piss me off but it had so much potential, great actors, interesting story, lots of good points to make and lots of charisma to show, but it just fell completely short of what it could have been. It was an academy film, some may say, and it paid off. I do think there aren’t any nominations left to give it and maybe that is the real plot twist. The whole movie is a con to get nominations, now that would be a good ending.
It’s hard to score this film. I want to give it less than Inside Llewyn Davis because at least that film didn’t bore me so much, but then again this film seemed like it knew what it wanted to do, it just didn’t know exactly how to do it, either way. What I wrote here is the truth as I and the other members of this site see it, take from that what you will. My personal recommendation is to stay away from this film, but if you think you can bear its awkwardness and dragging slow pace in exchange for its charisma and other good elements, this may work for you.