Tuesday, 28 January 2014

American Hustle (2013)

Hello again, tiny but loyal readership. It's been a good few months since I last put anything on Rewatchableness, and this is my written apology to all four of you. When I started this little blog o'mine back in December 2012, I said I'd make an effort to write about every single film I saw from then on. Bollocks. I'm surprised I kept that promise for the ten months I did, to be honest, but eventually I just found myself in the pitiable state of just not being arsed. It could have been permanent, had a couple of people not brought up the blog and made me feel guilty about abandoning the poor thing.

Anyway, a bunch of things have happened since I did abandon it. The night before I published my last post before the hiatus (which was about The Raid), my friend Connor, who has been mentioned a few times on here, put a link to this website on Reddit. In the 24 hours that followed, I went from roughly 6 or 7 views a day to over 2000. The people working the blogger server must done a double take. Inevitably, though, not many people looked at anything other than the first post they were confronted with, and the next day the viewer count plummeted back down to 20. It might have been that gentle nudge to the face reminding me of how mediocre the blog was that discouraged me from writing on it for a while, but I'm not sure. I'm happy with the casualness of it.

It certainly wasn't that I just didn't see any films. Quite the opposite. For example, I've seen both Filth and Sunshine On Leith, and I probably could have enjoyed writing something comparing their very different views of my home town of Edinburgh (the closeness of the setting meant that in one sweeping shot at the start of Sunshine On Leith, I could clearly see the cinema that I was sitting in at the time, quite an odd sensation). I saw Hitchcock's seminal 1960s horror The Birds for the first time on Halloween night. I saw Gravity twice, with one of those times being in IMAX, and massively enjoyed it both times. I saw the Danish drama The Hunt, which is outstanding and everyone should see, and the touching, shocking and desperately needed Palestinian documentary Five Broken Cameras, both over Netflix. And while I was over in Sweden seeing Swedish Charlotta for New Year, I went to see Steve McQueen's jaw-dropping slavery film 12 Years A Slave and Peter Jackson's passable Middle Earth 3D romp The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.

I can't say I didn't appreciate the freedom of watching these films without having to make the effort to write about them afterwards, but I've come to realise that I actually enjoy writing just as much as I love watching movies, and I wasn't such an idiot 14 months ago when I decided to merge these two passions to produce a hideous, mutated and confused baby blog. So that's why I've grabbed the iPad with both hands and thrown myself back into it.

But the top of the post says American Hustle. That's the last film I saw, last Saturday, and that's the film I'm going to use to defibrillate this thing. My good friend Paul had texted me earlier on in the week, asking if I wanted to go and see Martin Scorsese's The Wolf of Wall Street that weekend with him and Michael, another friend. However, this plan went to mush after we realised it was an 18, and while I could possibly have got in using Paul's passport (as I did with Filth), baby-faced Michael wasn't going to find a way in in a hurry. So we plumped for American Hustle which, it was announced last week, has tied with Gravity for the most 2014 Oscar nominations. Sounded like a fair swap, I thought, and I went in the cinema knowing next to nothing about the story or anything else.

The first thing that slaps you in the face about American Hustle is Christian Bale. Director David O'Russell has clearly heard the old Hollywood adage that if you want to hook your audience from the very start, get your main star to put on 43 pounds in weight, shave his head for a hideous combover, slouch until he gets a herniated disc in his back, then open with him topless. It works. With an image more than reminiscent of Tom Cruise in Tropic Thunder, Bale's repugnant Irving Rosenfeld walks into a scene right from the middle of the storyline, that shows us exactly what we're dealing with: we have three people: Bale, Amy Adams and Bradley Cooper. Wee bit of a love triangle going on between them. They're attempting to capture a politician (Jeremy Renner with a quiff) taking a bribe on film, but the politician takes it badly and walks out.

Naturally, once Irving takes us back to the start and shows us how he got to that point, things prove to be a bit more complicated. The whole story of conmen conning and conning some more, then being conned themselves and being offered retribution through helping to stage another massive con is entertaining, and the great script makes it power along. It's enjoyable to see such a terrific cast loving every line they're reciting.

It's just a shame that as the cons get more and more numerous and intricate, it's incredibly easy to slip away for a second and end up not having a clue what's going on. Both Michael and the aforementioned Connor said that they thought the acting was brilliant, but they didn't like the movie because everything had just become gibberish by the end. And when I tried to explain it to Michael during the credits, I realised I hardly had a grip on what was happening either.

American Hustle is a film that begs for a second viewing for all the wrong reasons: you're so confused at the end that you feel you have to go back and find out where you lost it. That isn't to say I didn't just like the feeling of it. Even if I was lost, the performances, the soundtrack and the intentionally tacky, kitsch style of it made it good fun to watch, and I wouldn't be sad if I ended up revisiting it. It's certainly never boring to watch.

There, I'm done.

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