“Never took quarters from a phone booth? You stole. I just got bigger balls than you.” American Hustle is an incredible film. Christian Bale has redeemed himself and been elevated to the realm of De Niro. Anyone with a come over can now be proud. This is the film Scorsese should have made. American Hustle is a mind trip into a simpler past when people were more complex and human. And the Hustle was a dance and a way of life. Watch this film and experience a renaissance back to the golden age of cinema and why it is an art form.
Passive aggressive karate! Shades of Scorsese ring out in this film. Classic. I expected Ray Liotta to walk into the room with eyeliner any second.
A complex study of character and the cultural landscape that created these individuals is vastly different from modern society. Before computers, before social media, before the global warming, before the constant camera surveillance of big brother watched our every quirk. Big cars, big hair, big clothes, big hopes.
I will be pulling together my thoughts on this film and throwing them down like a Pollack painting.
First let’s say the hair styles in this movie are characters in themselves. They lend the characters creditability and substance. The hairstylist on this film deserves an award. The wardrobe was wild. Production was a real ensemble work of art, just like the old school movie studio films.
Some of this actually happened. This film is about what really happens to people in real life. In hard times, in desperation, in love, in trouble and surviving.
Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) is a man with a mission and the heart of a con man cast in gold. A kind hearted artist of the con, Irving keeps his head down skimming money off the top of unknowing rubes acting as a loan adviser while running a dry cleaner, a glass company and selling fake art. He knows how to hustle!
His most endearing side line artistry is an incredible intricate combover involving barber shop floor cuttings, hairspray, glue and a prayer. Neil Young, “Horse with No Name” Potbellied, bearded with aviator like glasses and a wild array of colored ties, Irving makes no excuses for carving his slice of the American dream. He’s content to swindle a living for himself, his beautiful wife Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence) and his adopted son.
Rosalyn is a firecracker, setting the house on fire at whim then dismissing it. Shocked that anyone cares. Scientific oven sparkles and snaps at a thrown in aluminum dish. Rosalyn emerges from every disaster with gleaming skin and rolling eyes. She can throw herself to mob sharks with a vertical smile, blond curls dangling like hooks. Fight and fuck, that’s our thing! She tells Irving. Rosalyn paints her own logic and the world bends to accommodate her, while slapping her around.
“Live and Let Die.” Rosalyn lip-synchs in outrageous self infatuation. The house shines under the burnt kitchen cabinets. Her new mob boyfriend will take care of Irving and he will see a new plan that was her plan in the first place to give Irving the inspiration to have a new plan by sending the mob to kill him. It’s infallible feminine wile turning the world and I have never seen it displayed in such perfect rhythm and truth.
Irving takes pride in his work and stays within his moral code, he’s the good guy in his eyes. He’s doing the right thing by all when Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) sails into his life in a near see thru knit bathing suit. They lean into a Duke Ellington album, he saved both their lives. Anf Irving does right for her also.
They falls in love, hard. Sydney is everything Irving has been waiting for. Deep neck plunges, long rectangular neck lines. A shapely curved breast exposed, each dress an exposition, a declaration, an exploration.
To become anyone else than who I was. Sydney’s hard times life transforms from a stripper to a fine English aristocrat “Lady Edith Greensly”. Desperation can make you do anything to survive. You can become anything, say anything, become anyone. With Irving’s help she evolves into an experienced con and shocks Irving with her intelligence, beauty and love. She finally has a man who has faith in her and she blossoms.
The two finally have someone they can both trust, each other. After breaking store windows to save his father’s glass business Irving finally has a partner in crime, someone he can be real with. Money rolls in, people are happy to hand checks to the dear Lady Greensly. Finally a moment where the hard luck people can breath, and embrace good fortune.
Damn FBI agent Richard “Richie” DiMaso (Bradley Cooper) dons a tight perm. He wraps it preciously at his mothers house with his fake fiancé while eating chicken over the bathroom sink. Nervous tick of a guy hungry for a collar. Lurches into Irving life and snaps them up for loan fraud.
Richie throws Lady Greensly into a small florescent room with no bed for three days. He does this because he likes her. Then brings Irving in to watch, conning him into a deal. Give me four collars. Four then you’re out. Only the four becomes a twisting road to more and more. Up a slick mountain, to mayors, congressmen, and the ultimate mobster who prefers to leave dead bodies in the streets than bury them as a lesson to others.
Richie is a mommie’s boy scratching at the door of FBI promotion. He scraps hilariously with his boss, Stoddard Thorsen (Louis CK) over stories of ice fishing with Stoddards father and brother. Richie wants millions for a sting, Richie wants the entire upper floor of the Plaza Richie wants glory. Stoddard denies him everything, then feeds Richie a story without an ending or moral. Richie can’t guess it, and ends up beating his boss with a telephone. The old heavy phones with the dials and cords. Richie slams it like a metal sledge hammer into Stoddard’s head.
“I Feel Love” Lady Edith Greensly and Richie traipse down to a disco. Freshly permed, in white shirts and scarf Richie has heat for Greensly with her plunging neck line, he wants to dance, wants to love, wants to find success and he smells her smarts among other things.
Tape decks. I see record players. Black and white video cameras. Ascots, striped ties with plaid shirts. Velvet jackets and wide collars. Sleek dresses and curled soft hair. Family homes with pictures on the walls. Neighborhoods, trust and Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner) Mayor of Camden, New Jersey Elvis hair, hound dog eyes, loved by all. Family man with a Brooklyn Priscilla by his side working to rebuild Atlantic City. Bringing jobs to his community by doing the right thing. taking money from the a Mexican FBI agent posing an Arabic Sheik. Irving and Richie interpret the havoc to snare the nicest guy in town.
“Deliah” Tom Jones belts a signal of power and mistrust.
For once I won’t give away the ending. This movie is a fun ride from an era long gone and never to return but revisiting it is a blast and this ensemble of actors truly embraces the material and makes it sing.
Even if it’s to a disco beat.