Daily Archives: Wednesday, February 5, 2014

  • American Hustle David O Russell (Usa 2013)

    P { margin-bottom: 0.21cm; }

    American Hustle David O
    Russell (USA 2013) Christian Bale; Amy Adams; Bradley Cooper.

    Viewed Empire Cinema Newcastle upon Tyne 28 Jan 2014

    Hanging in/out

    After two hours plus in the cinema I
    found it difficult to understand what Russell’s American Hustle was
    about except style and mood. It’s a relaxed laid back type movie
    personified in Bale and Adams who comprise the performing axis, and
    the excuse for the plot to crank through its laborious machinations.

    Set in the 1970’s, it is based
    loosely (very loosely I suspect) on a conman and con woman entrapped
    by the FBI and whose skills are used to expose high level political
    corruption in New Jersey and Washington. But all
    the plot shenanigans are played out in an inconsequential manner that
    became progressively perfunctory. The script initially lends the two
    protagonists voice overs giving some insight into Irving and Sydney’s
    states of mind. This device is soon abandoned leaving the audience
    to gaze at the surface of the movie: the costumes and haircuts, the
    music and the square dance of the personal relationships that pivot
    around Irving’s wife and girlfriend.

    American Hustle is little more than a
    bland exercise in style. It is laboriously scripted with cliche’d
    one liners borrowed from a previous jaunts into the Con-land genre
    such as the Sting and the Grifters. The dialogue represents a
    stereotyped cod American philosophy of survival captured all those
    years ago by W C Fields: “ Never give a sucker an even break.”
    How long can they go on recycling these gash lines?
    American Hustle is almost completely
    lacking in on screen tension unless you count the extreme décolletage
    of the outfits worn by Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence. Bursting out
    of the costumes, their tits threaten to pop out completely at any
    time. But the scenarists decide not to do a take on this particular
    gag line, and the tape or whatever, does its job. And, in the final
    scenes in which the plot has bestowed upon all the players smiling
    faces and happy MacDonald family hour, the ladies mamories are
    appropriately and symbolically nicely tucked up inside their bras.
    The tension is over and so is the film.
    American Hustle: tit’s haircuts
    costumes and 70’s music all the way down the line. Everything on
    the surface. Judging by its face American Hustle is an exercise in
    borrowed style from a bygone epoch, the usual Hollywood retro refuge
    when the material has nothing much else going for it. A surface of
    contrasting haircuts and coiffure, frocks and flairs and whenever the
    script or haircuts or costumes start to flag, Russell fades up some
    70’s grooves David Bowie, Donna Summer Elton John to keep the
    audience interested. American Hustle a sales pitch for a 70’s
    select CD.

    In a filmic sense American Hustle is a
    dead dog, a tired stylised exercise of genre Hollywood output. But
    there is one particular thing of note in the scenario and that is the
    psychic make up of the main characters. They replicate in their
    identities an increasingly opperant feature of Western identity: the
    schizo ID. Each of American Hustle’s main characters plays out a
    schizo personality; no one is whom they seem to be. Irving is and
    Sydney are professional cons whose presentation of self is at the
    same time both a fabrication and a deeper assertion of their real
    selves. And the FBI agent and Roslyn also move into variant schizo
    identities of the people they start out as representing. American
    Hustle’s main characters are all schizos and symbolise the forces
    that are at work in a culture where leisure has replaced work and
    status as the loci of identity.

    Embedded in the core of the film’s
    characters is the idea of duality of identity. As the characters
    move between different strata and social networks they shift identity
    to accord with their needs and purposes. ID is changed: just like
    changing a frock. We live in the land of the quick change schizo
    artist. But of course this ID schizo shift in the movie replicates
    what’s become the default option in the West. Increasingly
    individuals operate across a number of discrete domaines such as work
    leisure and in particular on-line worlds. In step with this de facto
    separation there’s a tendency to create and adopt variant ID’s to
    interact with each network of people. This schizo tenancy in
    fronting contemporary identities can be slight or radical, but
    overwhelming forces are at work driving the process. Schizo
    identity claims have become part of the deep game playing that is
    used sometimes to effect successful manipulation, but that often ends
    up as a sort of compulsion to control all the parameters relating to
    the presentation of self. And American Hustle on its own somewhat
    anodyne terms certainly uses this schizo feature of contemporary life
    as a playing out factor of the film.

    Adrin Neatrour