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American Hustle [Celluloid Hero]

 

American Hustle  (2013)

Sometimes there is nothing better than watching an ensemble cast of great actors work with each other. Other times, the caliber of the cast overshadows the quality of the actual movie. I feel like this time, the story was an afterthought.

The names are huge: Christian Bale, Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner. They’re all huge stars in their own right, and could easily headline a movie themselves. Director/writer David O. Russell has already worked with Bale and Adams in “The Fighter” and Lawrence & Cooper in “Silver Lining Playbook”, both of which I liked. I had rated those movies a 6/10 and 7/10 respectively, so my hopes weren’t unrealistically high, but I still felt let down.

Like “The Fighter”, “American Hustle” was based on a true story. Like any movie “based on a true story”, you never know how much is real and how much is pure Hollywood fabrication. With this movie I actually didn’t feel like anything would have added or detracted from things if I knew it was real or knew it had been exaggerated. The main reason it would not have mattered is that the story was sort of a mess. I read a quote from David O. Russell that he actually told the cast to just act the hell out of it, and not worry about the story. I have a problem with that, in that you can’t sacrifice one part of a movie for another and still make something great.

I’ve reviewed a lot of kung fu or straight up action movies, and admitted that a lot of times the story suffers for the sake of the action sequences. There have also been movies that had such a gripping story that it compensated for some subpar acting work. I just feel that when the writer/director himself says “eh, forget the story, just act it up”, it detracts from things so much it’s hard to recover.

Christian Bale is fantastic, as always. Bradley Cooper goes a little over the top at times but manages to give a strong overall performance. Jennifer Lawrence was a bit crazy, but her character had that quality so she made it work. I still don’t see the appeal of Amy Adams; I just have not seen her do anything that impressed me. I do think that things could have been slightly better if Adams and Lawrence switched characters. In the film, Bale is married to Lawrence but having an affair with Adams. In real life, Bale is sixteen years older than Lawrence, and six months older than Adams. It would have made more sense for him to be ditching his wife for a younger, hotter piece.

If you want to watch some great actors work with each other, this is worth your time. It just ends up coming off like an acting class, like something a professor shows in college to demonstrate a high level. Instead of coming together as a wholly great film, it ends up being lesser than the sum of it’s parts.

 

 

On the [Celluloid Hero] scale, “American Hustle” gets a 5 out of 10.

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