Thursday, December 12, 2013

'American Hustle' Film Review

American Hustle (2013)
Crime/Drama - 138 minutes
David O. Russell

I had been waiting to see American Hustle since before it was called American Hustle. The script was originally called ‘American Bulls***’, and after getting my hands on the screenplay, I was seized. The script was brilliant.

The finished film, however, proved to be very different from the screenplay – the only carry-overs were the character forms and the basic structure of the plot (being based on true events, the overall plot remained fairly unchanged). However, I can’t think of any scenes that remained the same from the screenplay to the film.

The strength of this film is the characters. The characters were an overwhelming force of nature. Even the smallest roles were often filled with distinct details and quirks that made the world feel real.

According to IMDB, David O. Russell encouraged his actors to delve into their characters, even when it meant drastically changing the plot during filming. When Christian Bale countered ‘"You realize that this is going to change the plot greatly down track." Director David O. Russell replied, "Christian, I hate plots. I am all about characters, that's it."

Overall, the film has a power that makes it a film that feels like it has the depth of a modern classic like ‘Goodfellas’. 

Despite the strength of this film, it does have a flaw that I think is worth discussing. 

Spoilers ahead:

The two lead characters (Christian Bale’s Irving Rosenfield and Amy Adams’ Sydney Prosser) were ruthless, cunning, dynamic con artists throughout the entire film, until the ending when, after they pull off their biggest con, they decide to become art gallery curators and live a quiet, subdued life.  I found this ending to be a forced, contrived arrangement so that the film could be wrapped and packaged with a bow on top.

The characters are such forces of nature that they don’t lose their energy as the film progresses – their energy escalates. This is not the issue, but it becomes an issue by the end of the film when the plot starts to come to a conclusion. By the end of the film, I felt like the characters should have kept going- the characters didn't want the film to end, but obviously, like all films, it had to. This caused an abrupt and rather non-cathartic ending.

The original screenplay by Eric Singer, though not as dynamic as the product on screen, had an ending that gave the entire film, or at least Christian Bale’s character – a much more poignant, direct meaning. 

In the end, American Hustle is more fun than American Bulls*** was. No doubt - See this movie. You won't regret it. But American Bulls*** had an ending that tied it all together with a more poignant meaning that I wish American Hustle had more of. 

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