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American Hustle

David O. Russell has fast become America’s darling when it comes to telling character driven drama’s about the American consciousness.  His last film Silver Linings Playbook was one of the highlights of last year.  The Fighter earned Christian Bale a much deserved Oscar, but  I felt that it was given a little too much credit except for that performance.  His new film American Hustle I believe is also receiving much acclaim that it doesn’t necessarily deserve.

American Hustle is the story of a con-man Irving (Bale), a stripper Sydney (Amy Adams), and  FBI agent Richie (Bradley Cooper) trying to make a name for himself.  Irving and Sydney meet each other at a cocktail party and realize they are made for each as far as running the con game.  They sell fake paintings, sucker people into investing into financial projects, and find other ways to make a quick buck.  Everything is working to perfection until they try and con Richie.  Richie has them dead to rights, but he’s looking for bigger fish to fry.  Irving and Sydney agree to a deal to bring in 4 bigger fish in order to receive immunity for their grifting.

Things get a little dicey as the three of them get deeper, and further up the chain in the crime world.  Irving’s wife Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence) isn’t helping matters as a noisy estranged house-wife either.  I have to say as well, even though I am a huge fan of Jennifer Lawrence, I feel that she’s cast poorly here.  It’s very hard to discern her exact roll as wife, and they could have done a lot more with her character and how she plays an integral role in the events that play out.

The problem isn’t that American Hustle isn’t a good film, it’s just not a great film and I don’t really understand all of the praise surrounding it.  The film is too caught up in attempting to be a grandiose 70s con artist film.  It’s too interested in presenting hallmark 70s rock songs at every turn as well, along with set design, wardrobe, and pretty much everything else to make it scream THIS IS THE 70s GET IT!

The two greatest con films in my opinion are The Sting, and Stephan Frears Grifters.  Two films that were able to eloquently address the art of the con.  American Hustle doesn’t come close to these two gems, but it tries to be that great. That’s the problem.  It tries too hard.

I love character dramas, and Russell lets the actors act here as he does in all his films.  The problem is he lets them run away with the film, and forgets about the script and telling a great story. The film becomes quite convoluted and unnecessarily complex.  We’re left scratching our heads until we’re given a tidy little bow to supposedly wrap up everything that’s gone on during the entire course of the film.  I hate movies that do this.  Let us figure it out along the way.  The filmmakers job is to carve that path and help us to put the pieces together, not throw them at us last minute.

Grade: B-