American Hustle (2013)


Irving Rosenfeld is an accomplished conman, fencing stolen artwork and promising a payout on investments with no return. He meets Sydney Prosser and they immediately hit it off, so much so that Irving tells her all about his illegal cons. At first she seems horrified but understands and even agrees to be his partner in crime. The couple make several successful cons before a renegade FBI agent, Richie DiMaso catches them out and forces them to con powerful members of society into accepting bribes so Richie can make arrests.

American Hustle is loosely based on the FBI’s ABSCAM operation in the late 70’s. The look and feel of the film perfectly reflect the time period (or at least my knowledge of it). The costume and set design is phenomenal, drawing you into the time and creating a believable presence. The script is well written and sets up the cast to provide great performances.The dialogue and character personification sets the stage for Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Brad Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence to deliver Oscar-nominated performances. Even Jeremy Renner acted out of his skin, to the point that I forgot he starred in Hansel & Gretel.


The film was nominated for 10 Oscars but didn’t win a single one. American Hustle does lots of things well, but none of them to a level worthy of winning an Oscar. The storytelling was exceptionally unrefined; scenes don’t flow and seem put together at the last minute. Critics have raved about American Hustle as a masterpiece, a perfect mix of art and entertainment. There are certain directors who bring perceived prestige to a film, and this is one of them. David O. Russel has directed acclaimed films like Silver Linings Playbook and The Fighter. Due to his success, the lack of proper story-telling and needless complexity is seen as depth. This is the type of filmic smoke and mirrors that allows Pseudo-film critics to claim anyone who didn’t like the film is uneducated in film art, or from some forums I’ve read, uneducated all-together.

The fact is, films like American Hustle, pushed heavily by advertising and a huge theatrical release, aim to be entertaining. If anyone didn’t “get it” then the film failed in its main goal, to entertain consumers.

The character development was painstakingly invisible. The main group start as unchangeable, one-dimensional characters and also end that way. Even though the main couple “go straight” it is evident that the events haven’t changed them and they are destined to make the same mistakes.


The Verdict:

American Hustle fires on many levels of film appreciation like acting, cinematography and set/costume design but fails on the core film attributes of story-telling and character development. Even though it was marketed as an entertaining blockbuster, it can only be appreciated by a narrow scope of audience. If you enjoy analyzing and critiquing film elements, American Hustle is a textbook definition of film making, but if you want to be entertained, American Hustle is a textbook definition of film making.


Agree, disagree? Let me know what you think in the comments below.

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