The first movie I saw this year was David O Russell’s latest bid for Oscars American Hustle. The fictionalised account of the ABSCAM FBI operation (the opening title says ‘some of this actually happened’) into political corruption has Christian Bale and Amy Adams as two con-artists employed (under threat of arrest) by Bradley Cooper to help him take down more and more important people. I was expecting a lot from this film based on the critical buzz prior to its release but I was left underwhelmed by the final product.
The film is very well-made, with good directing by Russell and excellent performances by the entire cast (although Jennifer Lawrence looks far too young for her part). The characters are well-rounded and the moments of humour work well (particularly a bit involving a microwave). But about two-thirds of the way through I suddenly noticed that I was starting to stop caring about what was happening in front of me, and I couldn’t put my finger on why. It wasn’t that the story was uninteresting or too hard to keep up with (even if it does seem to be trying to out-tangle Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy). I think the thing with American Hustle is that beneath at the gloss and performances the really isn’t much at the core of the film, and it feels like it doesn’t have much of a particular focus. It has all the superficial elements of a great film, but not the substance.