American Hustle

American Hustle has everything: a cast of today’s hot talent, a director’s whose previous film (Silver Linings Playbook) was hard not to enjoy, 70s costumes and hairpieces to invoke instant comic value and gloss, a con-trick based plot which should provide intrigue, tension, social commentary and comic potential. It has everything, indeed.

Sad to report, then, that the film is itself a con. The performances are nearly faultless in this regard; none of the major players really puts a foot wrong. It’s easy to see why the film has been laden with nominations for the acting at least. What I find slightly more mystifying is the level of acclaim the film has received as a whole. It a film about con-artists and police entrapment, about people playing roles; people who play roles so well that we never see who they are. It’s impossible for the audience to really care about any of them because we don’t who they really are. To say something about the roles people play, you need to say more than simply state that they do so.

Then there’s the story. There are fine moments of comedy and tensions – but in the end, I didn’t really know what was happening. The layers of deceit aren’t peeled away so much as they are occasionally and carelessly ripped off, leaving strands of previous layers dawdling on top of each other. Double-cross on double-cross is one thing; by the end, though, its several revelations too far. I was too lost and too confused about people whom I didn’t really care to stay interested.

It’s a shame, as there’s so much I should like, and so much that could be said by this director and these actors making this sort of film. If it’s meant to reflect a shallow and empty hall of mirrors in American society, then it’s a disappointingly successful one. Sometimes you need to do more than reflect. Much to admire, but in the end relatively little to actually engage and enjoy.

I rated this film 6/10 on imdb.com and 3/5 on rottentomatoes.com

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