“Inside Llewyn Davis” and “Nebraska” are the current standards of what a serious Hollywood movie looks like. “American Hustle” offers so many easy pleasures that people may not think of it as a work of art, but it is. David Denby The New Yorker
I want to get the bad news out first, I was disappointed in American Hustle; it was not the greatest movie in the history of mankind. Even walking into the theater, I knew that nothing could match my internalized amping of the critical acclaim I had been reading. All that said, it was masterfully directed and had the best acting I have seen in a long time.
From stage left to right, Jennifer Lawrence was so sexy and looney, it was impossible to take my eyes off of her. Anytime she was on-screen, she stole the show. There was no relation to Katnis Everdeen or Ree. Christian Bale plays Irving Rosenfeld – who, I assume, is cast as Jewish but doesn’t come across as Jewish to my Jewdar – and is so distinctive in the role that, on leaving the theater, I told Michele I couldn’t think of a movie in which I had seen him before. When Michele mentioned the brooding Bruce Wayne in The Dark Knight Rises, I thought she must be mistaken.
Jeremy Renner is the mayor just trying to do good and he bears no resemblance to any part I have seen him play and certainly not Sergeant James, in the Hurt Locker. To me, he was the most sympathetic character, the one I like the most, but the genius of the film is that they are all likable. Of all the actors, Bradley Cooper’s FBI Agent DiMaso is the closest to his previous characters but he brings a sense of going off the rails that carries much of the film.
And Amy Adams is terrific as a woman trying to fight her way out of going nowhere, when we meet her, in a voice over, she mulls over being a stripper, There’s a boldness to it. But where would that boldness take me? In a way, that sums up the whole movie. For me, a major character – although uncredited – was Miss Adams’ dress. In any world with gravity and/or centrifugal force, her boobs would have popped out in almost every scene.
I want to say that this is a David O. Russell movie because I like him as a director – it started with Flirting with Disaster and Three Kings is still one of my favorite movies – but this is really a star movie like Ocean’s Eleven and it has a similar, light, inconsequential vibe. It got me wondering, What is a Star? My first thought is that part of it is coming out of nowhere, very fast, very young. But, in American Hustle, Jennifer Lawrence is the only really young actor (although they are all pretty young from my age). But the Stars do come out of nowhere. They have a bit part, maybe a couple, and then get a lucky break in a Winter’s Bone, or Hangover, or Hurt Locker, and we all know them. We probably all over-looked them when they played a bit, deep in a movie, like Robin the Luggage Boy in Kenneth Branagh’s Henry V or a minor part like Sack Lodge in Wedding Crashers.
I am not sure that an actor has always had to be a great actor to be a Star, but today, Stars all seem to be great actors. I think that, for an actor to make that jump to Star, they must have something more. They have to attract us, make us fall in love, at least for a couple of hours, even if it is only in the dark. What I like most about Hollywood, is what so many people like the least, the alleged superficiality.
To make it in Hollywood, people have to be attractive – often confused with good-looking, but not really the same, think Danny DeVito – but they also have to be hardworking and talented. It doesn’t matter where somebody is from – from stage left to right – Louisville, Kentucky; Haverfordwest, Wales; Modesto, California; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Castle Rock, Colorado. It doesn’t matter who your parents were, children’s camp manager, a circus performer, bowling alley manager, a stockbroker for Merrill Lynch, a semi-professional bodybuilder. It is that meritocracy, the democracy of it all that I like.
In this movie, full of Stars – who weren’t born Stars, who had to hustle to become Stars – playing hustlers, it comes full circle. It is fun to watch.