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I Hated American Hustle

Saturday 18 January 2014
Words Spindle

Going into the first movie in a while where the trailer hadn’t completely given away the entire plot, I was genuinely on the fence about American Hustle.

Given David O Russell’s recent attempt at an Oscar baiting glorified rom-com, I think that it’s fair that I was able to muster up a level of feeling that could be equated to a ‘meh’ towards this film. The ‘meh’ was three-fold, stemming from the fact that I think I Heart Huckabees is genius, I felt pretty okay about The Fighter, and Amy Adams should be President. Period.

I did make one promise to myself walking in: don’t hate on Jennifer Lawrence – see what she does. I’m assuming at this point half of the readerships’ jaws just dropped. Not. JLaw. She’s. My. Best. Friend. I unfortunately haven’t fallen under her spell as of yet, and though I do think she was well suited for the franchise role in The Hunger Games I have yet to be blown away by her performances, especially that of her work with Russell.

In her most recent attempt as Rosalyn in American Hustle I have to say that my opinion still hasn’t changed. In her defense, I chalk this one up to a miscast as I feel like I was looking at an infant child pretending to be a wife and mother. I couldn’t help but think that this role could have been electrifying with a sassy Marisa Tomei type – someone that had years on her and a bit more pain, not a bright eyed new starlet who unfortunately appeared to be attempting something that was beyond her years. And straight up: her Jersey accent was terrible and really took me out of her performance.

Amy Adams and Christian Bale both had incredible performances, while Bradley Cooper trailed behind them a bit on the scale but was still capable. Unfortunately, performances alone cannot create a great film, and that’s where American Hustle fell short – big time.

The plot of con artists Irving Rosenfeld and Sydney Prosser who are forced to work for FBI agent Richie DiMaso is a great concept for a movie, but that’s where American Hustle’s achievements end for me. This low stakes, convoluted film left me thinking about whether or not I had laundry to do. Russell set up so many heist hijinks but failed to follow through on any of his creations. He introduced characters like Robert De Niro’s Victor Tellegio then let him fall to the wayside to give screen time to much less interesting plot lines. The relationship he tried to create between Irving and Jeremy Renner’s Carmine Polito was a novel idea but again failed to develop on screen naturally and was aided in a voice over explaining Irving’s feelings towards Carmine. Rosalyn and Sydney’s meeting was a great scene but left me feeling uninspired as the film didn’t build up to it or explore their relationship. Instead it felt like a great scene from another movie I wish I had been watching.

In fact, that’s what David O Russell ended up creating: some great vignettes that amounted to pieces and not a whole.

Words: Stephanie Coffey