Quantcast
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

Wise to the Hustle

Don't kid yourself.

American Hustle: All the other decades can sit down, because the ‘70s just won.
American Hustle: All the other decades can sit down, because the ‘70s just won.

I’m not sure American Hustle is the best picture of the year. I’m not even sure if it’s my favorite picture of the year. But I’m pretty sure it brought me more oh-hell-yes pleasure than anything else I saw in 2013, starting with the opening scene.

We open with grim reality: the swollen gut of a middle-aged man (Irving Rosenfeld, slouchily portrayed by Christian Bale) who has indulged himself beyond his body’s capacity to retain its original shape. Just desserts, perhaps, but the camera doesn’t let us tut-tut our way out of the situation. Instead, it pans up to reveal blind nature’s remorseless ravage: an advanced case of male pattern baldness, made all the more painful by the luxurious swaths of hair that surround it. Life is cruel. What are you going to do about it?

Here’s what you’re going to do about it: you’re going to painstakingly apply a thatch of ersatz hair to your scalp and secure it with spirit gum. Then you’re going to coax those side swaths up and over, shaping, sculpting, and finally sealing your handiwork into place with industrial-grade hairspray. Then you’re going to button your shirt and your vest, put on your jacket and ascot, and head out to work in the world — only to have some overzealous government functionary with more ambition than brains and a better handle on what’s legal than on what’s right come along and louse it up. It’s all there, right in the opening scene. The rest of the movie is simply a delightful expansion on the theme.

If you’re Irving Rosenfeld, your work is conning folks. I mean, just by leaving his room, he’s already doing it: “I am a man with a full head of hair.” In this, he asserts, he is no different from anyone else: we are all working the con, often against ourselves. Rosenfeld thrives because he is smart enough to focus his energies outward. He’s smart in other ways, too — smart enough to realize when he’s found something real amid the fakes: fellow conner Sydney (Amy Adams in the role of a lifetime). The trouble is, he’s already married, and to a girl he just can’t quit (Jennifer Lawrence, half smart and all blonde). Sometimes, being wise to the play isn’t enough to beat it.

Movie

American Hustle ***

thumbnail

A heaping helping of period pleasure from director David O. Russell. Irving Rosenfeld (a gutty Christian Bale, resplendent in combover and ascot) is a '70s Jay Gatsby without the class anxiety, a man comfortable with the notion that everybody is, like him, working the con — getting along by lying about themselves (and often, <em>to</em> themselves). And of course, he's got a Daisy Buchanan in Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams, acting her heart out), his partner in love and hustling. But even a happy Gatsby may run afoul of a bully afflicted with overweening ambition and delusions of superiority — in this case, Bradley Cooper's FBI agent, who ropes the pair into helping him go after bigger game. And then there's the Other Woman (Jennifer Lawrence), the sexy blonde who's only half as dumb as she looks. There's a suitably twisty plot, but the point here is the people. It's a bit overlong and overmuch, but it's still a helluva party.

Find showtimes

So, yes, there’s an appropriately twisty plot, based on the FBI’s real-life late-’70s Abscam operation into congressional corruption. But the plot is not the point. The people are the point. Jeremy Renner as the sincerely populist mayor of Camden, New Jersey. Bradley Cooper as a desperately hungry FBI agent who doesn’t know enough to shut up and listen to his boss’s fishing story. And Robert De Niro, scary again after all these years.

Given this wealth of material, it’s not surprising that director David O. Russell gets a bit self-indulgent. The running time could stand a good trimming, and the voiceover stinks of its own sort of ambitious overreach. But the movie’s hustle is good enough that you’re still likely to leave smiling.

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all

Previous article

La Jolla Elementary alumni

Bruce Robinson, Fred Benedetti, Nickel Creek, Black Licorice, Rob Halford
Next Article

Oktoberfest beers to drink at home

Pick up a stein, or have this year’s märzen delivered
American Hustle: All the other decades can sit down, because the ‘70s just won.
American Hustle: All the other decades can sit down, because the ‘70s just won.

I’m not sure American Hustle is the best picture of the year. I’m not even sure if it’s my favorite picture of the year. But I’m pretty sure it brought me more oh-hell-yes pleasure than anything else I saw in 2013, starting with the opening scene.

We open with grim reality: the swollen gut of a middle-aged man (Irving Rosenfeld, slouchily portrayed by Christian Bale) who has indulged himself beyond his body’s capacity to retain its original shape. Just desserts, perhaps, but the camera doesn’t let us tut-tut our way out of the situation. Instead, it pans up to reveal blind nature’s remorseless ravage: an advanced case of male pattern baldness, made all the more painful by the luxurious swaths of hair that surround it. Life is cruel. What are you going to do about it?

Here’s what you’re going to do about it: you’re going to painstakingly apply a thatch of ersatz hair to your scalp and secure it with spirit gum. Then you’re going to coax those side swaths up and over, shaping, sculpting, and finally sealing your handiwork into place with industrial-grade hairspray. Then you’re going to button your shirt and your vest, put on your jacket and ascot, and head out to work in the world — only to have some overzealous government functionary with more ambition than brains and a better handle on what’s legal than on what’s right come along and louse it up. It’s all there, right in the opening scene. The rest of the movie is simply a delightful expansion on the theme.

If you’re Irving Rosenfeld, your work is conning folks. I mean, just by leaving his room, he’s already doing it: “I am a man with a full head of hair.” In this, he asserts, he is no different from anyone else: we are all working the con, often against ourselves. Rosenfeld thrives because he is smart enough to focus his energies outward. He’s smart in other ways, too — smart enough to realize when he’s found something real amid the fakes: fellow conner Sydney (Amy Adams in the role of a lifetime). The trouble is, he’s already married, and to a girl he just can’t quit (Jennifer Lawrence, half smart and all blonde). Sometimes, being wise to the play isn’t enough to beat it.

Movie

American Hustle ***

thumbnail

A heaping helping of period pleasure from director David O. Russell. Irving Rosenfeld (a gutty Christian Bale, resplendent in combover and ascot) is a '70s Jay Gatsby without the class anxiety, a man comfortable with the notion that everybody is, like him, working the con — getting along by lying about themselves (and often, <em>to</em> themselves). And of course, he's got a Daisy Buchanan in Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams, acting her heart out), his partner in love and hustling. But even a happy Gatsby may run afoul of a bully afflicted with overweening ambition and delusions of superiority — in this case, Bradley Cooper's FBI agent, who ropes the pair into helping him go after bigger game. And then there's the Other Woman (Jennifer Lawrence), the sexy blonde who's only half as dumb as she looks. There's a suitably twisty plot, but the point here is the people. It's a bit overlong and overmuch, but it's still a helluva party.

Find showtimes

So, yes, there’s an appropriately twisty plot, based on the FBI’s real-life late-’70s Abscam operation into congressional corruption. But the plot is not the point. The people are the point. Jeremy Renner as the sincerely populist mayor of Camden, New Jersey. Bradley Cooper as a desperately hungry FBI agent who doesn’t know enough to shut up and listen to his boss’s fishing story. And Robert De Niro, scary again after all these years.

Given this wealth of material, it’s not surprising that director David O. Russell gets a bit self-indulgent. The running time could stand a good trimming, and the voiceover stinks of its own sort of ambitious overreach. But the movie’s hustle is good enough that you’re still likely to leave smiling.

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

“My favorite John Waters movie is…”

A quick dissertation on the correlation between organic food intake and jean skinniness
Next Article

La Jolla Elementary alumni

Bruce Robinson, Fred Benedetti, Nickel Creek, Black Licorice, Rob Halford
Comments
0

Be the first to leave a comment.

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Art Reviews — W.S. Di Piero's eye on exhibits Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Best Buys — San Diego shopping Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits City Lights — News and politics Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Famous Former Neighbors — Next-door celebs Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Here's the Deal — Chad Deal's watering holes Just Announced — The scoop on shows Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Of Note — Concert picks Out & About — What's Happening Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Pour Over — Grab a cup Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Set 'em Up Joe — Bartenders' drink recipes Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Sports — Athletics without gush Street Style — San Diego streets have style Suit Up — Fashion tips for dudes Theater Reviews — Local productions Theater antireviews — Narrow your search Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Waterfront — All things ocean Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close