American Hustle (2013)

The big old Oscar debate. The fact is that sometimes they get it right, sometimes wrong. It’s too big and amorphous an organisation to have it’s tastes reliably judged. For some reason though, they seem to think that American Hustle is worth 10 Oscars. TEN! I’ve changed my mind, I’m judging you Academy.

It’s not that Hustle is a bad film, it’s not. It’s competent. Perfectly competent. That’s the most praise you can level at this film. It’s a very competent stab at borrowing from Martin Scorsese and Paul Thomas Anderson. It’s a good go at slapping together all the components that make a great film and predictably getting a middling one out of it.

The cast is good, but it’s not 4 acting nods good. Christian Bale is a proven actor, he can steer himself in a 7/10 performance with his eyes closed. Jennifer Lawrence has personality for days and could never not be an interesting watch. Amy Adams is a leading lady bathed in gravitas and gifted with comedy. Bradley Cooper usually makes my skin crawl, but here comes away the victor of the spoils.

What you get though is four sturdy performances where no one really shines through. It’s crammed with so many big solid characters that not one of them come away with anything approaching what should be considered for that highest of honours. Consider for a second Oscar Isaac and Joaquin Phoenix, who both occupy every frame of their respective pictures, Inside Llewyn Davis and Her. 

It’s this carpet-bomb approach that lends American Hustle it’s lacklustre pulse. David O. Russle throws everything he can at this film and as such, buries it. The most middle-of-the-road Oscar contender there could ever have been conceived, but those beige bodies at the Academy seem to be lapping it up. Sigh.

– Oliver Drew

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2 thoughts

  1. I think the performances award worthy. All of them. In fact, I think them five Oscar nod worthy (Renner could have gotten one, too). And I think every actor shines equally.

    But outside of that I agree with you. This one is good, but it is not great. Mostly because Russell overdirects. I was surprised it got the most nominations but I think it will also have the worst night of any movie come the ceremony. Lawrence will probably win. And it probably has a shot at screenplay, though it isn’t the favorite. Other that that, though, it stands a good chance of being shut out.

  2. Agree with the above comment in that it could easily of had 5 acting nods, but I’m not sold on your interpretation of the film. I thought it was a very good – not quite outstanding, but close – film that brought together very believable and complex characters that you don’t normally see onscreen. The plot was average, but some of the scenes were excellent – way up there with the best things i’ve seen this year. I’m fresh from watching 12 Year’s A Slave tonight and have NO IDEA how the academy can judge two films like this together, but the film is definitely noteworthy. Much preferred it to Wolf Of Wall Street, which was pretty similar in tone…

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