I had planned on waiting to see “American Hustle” when it arrived at our “second run” theater which charges just $3 for a ticket. But after all the nominations and awards at the Golden Globes and now all the Oscar nominations, I decided not to wait. Luckily for me, all the Best Picture nominees were returned to a local theater. (And since I’m retired, I could catch a $5 matinée.)
All I can say is…wow! “American Hustle” really is a fine film…from an “entertainment” perspective. If you see only one film from the “Best Picture” nominees, “American Hustle” is the one.
Based (loosely) on the Abscam sting of the late ’70s, Christian Bale plays the lead male con man, Amy Adams is the lead con woman, and Bradley Cooper plays the ambitious FBI agent. Jennifer Lawrence is Bale’s wife, and Jeremy Renner is Camden (New Jersey) Mayor. All five turn in great performances. (Robert Di Niro has a cameo role as a South Florida Mafia boss.)
“American Hustle” won a Golden Globe for “best picture” (excluding drama, which went to “12 Years A Slave”). Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence also won Golden Globes for their roles. (In the “drama” category, best actress went to Cate Blanchett for her role in “Blue Jasmine.”)
Unfortunately, the Oscars do not have “genre” awards. So, “American Hustle” is competing against “12 Years a Slave” for best picture and also best actor. The best actress nominees include Amy Adams and Cate Blanchett. Bradley Cooper is competing with Barkhad Abdi for best supporting actor. And best supporting actress nominees include Jennifer Lawrence and Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years A Slave.)
I’m going with “American Hustle” based on its “entertainment” value, Cate Blanchett for performance depth, newcomer Barkhad Abdi and Lupita Nyong’o, who won Screen Actors Guild and Critic’s Choice awards for her performance.
I’m also awarding “American Hustle” my own “best period soundtrack” award. It features music from America, Steely Dan, Chicago, Elton John, Santana, Wings, David Bowie, Led Zeppelin and Electric Light Orchestra, as well as some non-period music. (The soundtrack is available on Amazon.)
Since the film takes place in the late ’70’s, it wouldn’t be musically “authentic” if it didn’t pay respects to the discomania sweeping the country. That happens with a dance scene between Amy Adams and Christian Bale in a disco.
Perhaps the most …interesting…song in the film is one of my favorites: Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit.” But it’s not the Airplane’s version. It is sung by Mayssa Karaa (who I’d never heard of either)…in Arabic.
But the song that could be the “theme” of the movie is a Tom Jones song – “Deliah.” Christian Bale and Jeremy Renner sing this song at a party, which “fits” since it probably was a hit when they were in their “youth” a decade before the film’s setting. And, of course, “Deliah” is Amy Adams as far as Christian Bale and Bradley Cooper are concerned…
On to the Oscars!