Although I haven’t posted for a while, my fillum viewing certainly continued as 2013 moved towards (and over) 2014. Despite some lingering festivalitis, I’ve still been sampling both cinematic and ice-creamy delights.
Over the past few fillums, I’ve become a bit of a fan of Jack Huston. Formerly only known to me through Martin Scorsese’s excellent Prohibition era tv series Boardwalk Empire, Huston has unexpectedly appeared in three of the last four movies I’ve ventured along to see. Yet*, I’m only really going to talk about the last film: David O. Russell’s American Hustle.
The fillum brings together some of the actors that Russell obviously enjoys working with —Christian Bale and Amy Adams (The Fighter 2010), and Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence and Robert De Niro (Silver Linings Playbook 2012).
Based around the Abscam scandal of the 1970s, American Hustle is set in the last days of disco where dry-cleaning business owner Irving Rosenfeld (Bale) is also the best con man in the business. He’s made even better after meeting, falling-in-love and partnering-up with Sydney Prosser (Adams). They bond over the music of Duke Ellington and feel like they have something no one else gets.
Two lost souls looking for a better life through a web of deception, Sydney joins Irving in a scam as Lady Edith Greensly, a British aristocrat of sorts with banking contacts in Europe. The pair easily reel in people wanting to make a quick dollar. Coerced into working with ambitious FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper), Irving and Sydney become entangled in DiMaso’s increasingly elaborate plans for capturing cons. Using the pair to learn the tricks of the trade, DiMaso soon ends up playing in the bigger realm of politics.
DiMaso’s operation draws in Mayor Carmine Polito (Renner), the big-hearted politician just working for the good of the New Jersey people. With Irving treading the fine line between his developing friendship with the Mayor, and appeasing the powerbrokers including local mafia, Irving’s wife Rosalyn (Lawrence) becomes more a part of his life than he wants, but she desperately needs.
The performances are well polished — where Lawrence’s scene stealing moments could have easily been overplayed, she delivers as the wildly jealous, bored young wife, and Bale’s elaborate comb-over deserving of a best supporting actor award.
Louis C.K. (Stoddard Thorsen) is excellent as DiMaso’s boss, the steady mentor to an increasingly erratic agent, while Jack Huston plays mobster Pete Musane with the right mix of menace and charm.
The production design is super seventies; the comedy played light; the dialogue sharp; and, the sting in the tale a sweet payoff for an entertaining account of the art of American artifice.
As the film opening title card states,
Some of these things really happened
- Bradley Cooper’s perm
- Christian Bale’s paunch
- Amy Adam’s plunging neckline
- Jennifer Lawrence’s petulant pucker
- Jeremy Renner’s puffed-up hair.
Super sickly sweet swirls of butterscotch splashed through the sugary ice cream couldn’t quite make up for the stale-ish tip of the cone. Unlike the movie, hardly any crunch factor.
* Or possibly not… the other fillums were Kill Your Darlings (baileys and almonds) and Night Train to Lisbon (chocolate). I thoroughly enjoyed Kill Your Darlings, where Huston played the role of Jack Kerouac in a Beat Generation origins story, whereas the slower pace of Night Train to Lisbon made me feel like I should have jumped off that locomotive a wee bit earlier.
And that’s my first year of Scene It chomped, cracked and crunched. Hope you enjoyed consuming it** as much as I have.
**all/some/even a little a bit.