Saturday, February 22, 2014

In which Tryph didn't really like American Hustle

Every year I do a cannonball run through all the Oscar Noms.

It's a habit I picked up a while ago... I'll rent, download and watch as many of the movies nominated as humanly possible.  Most years I manage to hit at least 80% of them... it's gotten harder since the Academy started nominating anything that had a halfway decent plot or acting... but that's a whole different rant.

So this year I've barely scratched the surface of the list... which I'm including right here.  The two italicized ones are the ones I've watched.

American Hustle
The Wolf of Wall Street
Captain Phillips
Dallas Buyers Club
Gravity
Her
Nebraska
Philomena
12 Years a Slave

This year, I decided I'm going to write a quick review about all the movies I watch, so come Oscar time, everyone will be prepared for my rage (Anyone remember what happened when Hurt Locker won?)

First up: American Hustle.

You'd think a film with a stellar cast, and a director with a few great flicks under his belt that you'd have a great contender for this years top honours.

Well, if you thought that, you'd be dead wrong.

Don't get me wrong, I loved the soundtrack, the cinematography, the costumes and the performances were pretty tight... I just didn't enjoy what felt like an excessive focus on quirk.  It ended up feeling forced and made it next to impossible to connect with any of the characters.

Let me elaborate a little.

Have you watched Silver Linings Playbook?  It's a very cute RomCom that appealed even to the jaded and heartless like myself.  There were moments that I connected to the characters and fell in love with them falling in love because they were JUST AS MESSED UP as I am.

Which is to say quirky, or Woody Allen like in it's execution.

For a Romcom, that's perfectly acceptable.
For a Crime Drama?  That's just bullshit.

There was a complete lack of sincerity to how the characters acted, whether it be the over the top monologues or how they interacted with one another.  Nothing they said or did was believable.

I get that it's a film that is supposed to leave you guessing about who's screwing over who, but lets be honest for a second here.  You need to CARE about someone to CARE if they're getting screwed over.

In this film you had the Con Artists (Christian Bale, Amy Adams), the feds (Bradley Cooper, Louis C.K.), the mark (Jeremy Renner) and the estranged and fucked up wife (Jennifer Lawerence).

The only character you end up giving even the slightest damn about?  Louis C.K.  And why?  Because his was the only honest preformance in the entire film.

Irving Rosenfeld - He's a man who's trying to make a lazy and quick buck.  He's mister get rich quick, and wants to rape the American Dream.  You're introduced to him in the film through a montage of him whining about how he wants to be more than his father ever achieved.  It isn't easy to care about someone so self righteously lazy.

Sydney Prosser - You really only get snippits into her mindset, and why she does what she does.  I feel like I might like her better if she decided to cheat people out of their money for love... sadly I didn't get that.  All I got from this character was that she was a selfish and self indulgent fake Brit.  There was so much potential, but very little to like in the end.

Richie DiMaso - The fed.  He's the guy that you want to root for, but he's a slimy little eel looking for his big shot to show off how great he is.  He's the kind of guy who misses the bigger picture, because he's so focused on how he'll look when the photo is taken.  He's easily a mark, and just begging to be taken advantage of.

Stoddard Thorsen - The other fed.  Easily the only character I honestly gave a crap about.  Sadly he didn't have enough screen time, as the story didn't seem to need or want for a truly sincere character who wanted a greater good for anyone other than himself.  It's unfortunate, I quite liked this role.

Mayor Carmine Polito - The mark, someone you expect to want to either dislike or really like depending on your point of view.  You honestly don't get enough of him to really get a read or care about him.  I could take or leave him, but I feel like it's integral that you care.  I was confused about what I was supposed to feel for this guy by the end of the film.

That's the bulk of the cast, save for the wife, Rosalyn as portrayed by Jennifer Lawrence, who I feel like was only included because she's a giant name right now.  Any and all of the scenes that she was involved in just felt strained and weird.  They did very little to move the story along, and when it did, it felt like a deliberate plot device.  I didn't understand why we felt the need to actually and actively include the cuckolded wife.  

So you have these characters in a crime drama that seems to feel like the intent is to be character driven, ala Reservoir Dogs, and yet it just falls flat in the end.  Too much effort seemed to be expended making the characters seem quirkier than they actually were to compensate for a story that didn't have a lot of substance to keep it afloat.

Anyhow, if I was asked to rank this film out of 5... I'd likely give it maybe a 2, because I've seen worse, but it's not one I think anyone should go out of their way to see.  If it wins the Oscar... you might see this little Canadian Dork explode.

No comments: