I had been hearing good things about American Hustle. All-star cast with a retro feel to a distinctly 70’s movies. Christian Bale with a paunch? Jeremy Renner with a massive pompadour? I’m in! Plus there was the potential to see Amy Adams act her socks off and see another great performance from Jennifer Lawrence. All my dreams came crashing down within the first 30 minutes of American Hustle. More after the jump.
I can see why it’s up for awards. It’s supposed to be a compelling story of bad guys you root for, love fulfilled, and stakes you care about for the characters. All of those elements are there, it’s just pieced together in such a manner as to be unwatchable. Other factors made it just as unwatchable. Let’s run through the list:
1. Jennifer Lawrence is not very good. I would border on saying “terrible”. Her accent fades in and out. It’s really hard to see why Christian Bale’s character goes back to her. They keep talking about her using the kid as manipulation but they don’t show it very much. She stares vacantly most of the time, which I know fits her character, but we need some kind of cunning from a woman who’s able to capture and keep the affections of a con man!
2. I started to get creeped out by Amy Adam’s body cleavage. Amy Adams doesn’t just wear low-cut shirts for the entire movie, she wears the 70’s one piece jumpsuits that go to her navel. This was used well at the beginning, but after 2 hours of the same thing, I started to feel shame for staring at her.
3. The story bumbles its way to the conclusion. Or flops around like a dying fish if you prefer that imagery. You know there are double crosses in the works and that everyone is getting in way over their head, but the plot just never really makes it “there”. That magical movie place where you’re able to suspend disbelief and get into the plot. Everything but the kitchen sink is thrown into the script and it makes it difficult to follow the characters to their conclusion.
4. Bradley Cooper practically cribs his character from Silver Linings Playbook. I’m not saying you can’t rest on your laurels a bit. I like Bradley Cooper as an actor. I just can’t see him knowing what to do with this outrageous role that is forced to drag the plot along. He does okay with what they give him, but can “I want to do better, mom” really be a motivation for a whole movie?
I’ll be honest, I started checking Facebook a quarter of the way into the movie. The good points were: Christian Bale, the costuming (other than Amy Adam’s constant exposure), the sense of time (it felt like the 70’s the whole time, down to the last detail) and Jeremy Renner (with a smaller but well played part). Bale does well with his material and it’s interesting to see him in this latest incarnation. He’s becoming a character actor in a way and it’s all for the good.
See it if it’s your livelihood to make and decide on movies. Other than that you can skip this Oscar fodder.
3 cleavage suits out of 10.