Superficial Movie Reviews: ‘American Hustle’

I’ve been in a bit of a movie dry spell lately, which is really not like me. Usually, I’m out the door at the slightest provocation, happy to leave the kids and Ad Man to their own devices for two blissful hours. Recently, though, the weather has been miserable and the film offerings have been less than enticing. But, you know what starts after Christmas? Oscar season, baby!

After living in LA for ten years and working in “the Industry,” albeit tangentially, I still get that giddy feeling when the studio heads start releasing their best films in hopes of bringing home a few more of those little golden men. And, I am a sucker for a good movie. So, yesterday, I headed to my favorite theater (the one with the reclining seats, of course) to see ‘American Hustle.’

american_hustle_castAs I was enjoying the movie and analyzing the interior decor of the sets and the actors’ hairstyles, an idea came to me.  Why not start a series of movie reviews for MommyEnnui? These will be no run-of-the-mill film reviews, however. You can read any number of reviews by people much more qualified than I am to weigh the quality of films. I, on the other hand, am uniquely qualified to provide you with what I’ll be calling “Superficial Movie Reviews.”

Want to know the merits of a particular script or an actor’s performance? Check in with Manohla Dargis of the New York Times. Want to read a review that discusses the leading man’s unconvincing hairpiece or why a character would never have that lame tattoo in real life? I’m your gal!  So, without further ado, I bring you MommyEnnui’s first Superficial Movie Review of ‘American Hustle.’

first_gap_storeFirst, while it’s completely irrelevant to this review, I must say, I loved this film. As I’ve mentioned previously, I have a soft spot in my heart for the 1970s and this movie is steeped in the spirit and style of the decade from the very first moment. In a cool bit of nostalgia, the film opens with the 1970s Columbia Pictures logo. The font used for the credits is perfection. It’s that groovy, rounded ‘70s lettering used in the original Gap logo. (For those younger than me–and that’s a disturbingly large number of people–I have provided a photo for reference.)

The soundtrack was also pretty damn fantastic. I immediately flashed back to riding in my parent’s Buick LeSabre with the windows rolled down, my stringy hair whipping my face and occasionally getting stuck in my bubble gum. Soundtrack highlights range from soft rock hits like ‘Horse with No Name’ by America and ‘Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?’ by Chicago to disco greats like ‘I Feel Love’ by Donna Summer and ‘Don’t Leave Me This Way’ by Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes. There was also some jazz thrown in for character development. (Sorry, I didn’t mean to get all deep and film school-y.)

The ‘American Hustle’ soundtrack actually brings up a few questions. For example, how many bands of the ‘70s were named after a city, state or country? Also, is there still a genre of music being made today that would be considered light rock or “adult contemporary” or do us oldsters just cling to the music of our youth? Discuss amongst yourselves.

christian_bradley_hustleIf there’s one thing that ‘American Hustle’ succeeds greatly at, it’s making male actors who are very attractive in real life look wildly unappealing on film. I’m not going to lie, it’s a bit of a tragedy for straight, female viewers. Never before have Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper and Jeremy Renner been so difficult to gaze upon. If Christian Bale’s paunch and comb-over and Bradley Cooper’s man-perm don’t already have their own Twitter accounts, I’d be shocked.

In fact, all the hairstyles in this movie are amazing…either amazingly awesome or amazingly awful. While the male characters tend toward awful, the female characters’ coifs are almost uniformly awesome. Jennifer Lawrence is her usual gorgeous self with a romantic, messy updo that’s a perfect counterpoint to her loopy, unhinged character and Amy Adams’s mane of Donna Summers-esque disco curls is a thing of beauty. Color this straight-haired girl green with envy!

And, speaking of disco, there’s a scene in which Bradley Cooper and Amy Adams are dancing the night away that is H-O-T.  Why don’t I remember disco being this sexy? In my memory, disco was about as beguiling as line dancing. (And, I challenge anyone to try to make line dancing sexy.)  I guess it could be because I was in elementary school at the time and, at that point, was way more into Shaun Cassidy than Tony Manero. I don’t know. What I do know is that the disco scene in ‘American Hustle’ almost made me forget about Bradley Cooper’s perm…and that’s saying a lot.

As for the costumes, the women take this category hands down as well. Leisure suits, ties as wide as your head and brown-on-brown-on-brown are men’s fashion trends that were left behind in the ‘70s for good reason. The women’s costumes, however, are slinky, very low-cut and either menswear-inspired or flowy and feminine. I guarantee you that Tom Ford, Stella McCartney and Phoebe Philo have screeners of this movie playing on a loop in their design studios as we speak. Expect models with Amy Adams’s small, perky boobs and uber-deep v-neck blouses to be all over your nearest runway come fall.

Amy Adams;Jennifer Lawrence

Christian Bale who plays Irving Rosenfeld, lead hustler, has some of the best lines in the film. At one point he refers to his wife, played by Jennifer Lawrence, as “the Picasso of passive-aggressive karate” (I’m going to try that one on Ad Man). Another time, he tells her, “I thought you were mysterious, like my mother!  Until it turned it out mysterious meant depressed, hard to reach.” The last line actually gave me hope that I might come off as mysterious when I’m depressed, but something tells me Jennifer Lawrence does ‘mysterious’ a hell of a lot better than I do.

Lawrence supplies much of the comic relief in the film. Two of my favorite moments include her character Rosalyn learning how to use a newfangled “science oven” (microwave) and trying to convince Irving that he really should thank her for turning him in to some menacing local mobsters that now want to kill him. The girl’s got some serious chops when it comes to comedy.

american_hustle_setFinally, I would be terribly remiss if I didn’t mention the super fab ‘70s decor featured in the film. Everything is warm and wood paneled with smoked glass and bronze and gold accents supplying the glam. Suddenly, my own mid-century modern house and furniture feels a little too predictable and well-behaved. It could use a little something over-the-top and, dare I say, tacky. But you know, good-tacky…like metallic wallpaper. I would say this movie is going to set off a return to ‘70s rustic-mod style in interior design if design megastar Kelly Wearstler hadn’t already been doing this for years. Take a look at the images here to play a little game of “‘American Hustle’ set or Kelly Wearstler design?” It’s not as easy as you’d think.

kelly_wearstler_bedroom_2Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed the first installment of Superficial Movie Reviews.  I know I’m going to enjoy having a legitimate reason to see more films. Also, if I ever make any money from this blog, I’ll be able to write off movie tickets on my taxes just like the good old days!  If you’ve seen ‘American Hustle,’ I’d love to hear your thoughts on it and, if there’s a movie you think I should see, please let me know.

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