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.

Your Mama Don’t Dance and Your Daddy Don’t Rock ‘n Roll

little_green_cars_c:uI went to see an amazing band called Little Green Cars play the other night at a small venue in Atlanta.  My friend E turned me on to them and I’ve been listening to their CD (I had to stop myself from typing ‘album’)* for the last few months so I was super psyched to see them live.  As Ad Man is out of town, I had to get a babysitter so I could join E and his wife M for the show.  The three of us are very compatible and often have lovely dates together.  You’d think we all met on eHarmony.

Let me explain first that M is not known for her punctuality.  On top of this, I was coming from one side of town, E was coming from work and M was coming from the other side of town.  So, we decided to meet at the show, M taking Marta, Atlanta’s train line, and E picking her up at the station on his way.  As is common with such fail-safe plans, wires got crossed and it turned out that I arrived at the venue long before my friends did.

I waited outside for a while, trying to look engrossed in my cell phone while sizing up the crowd milling about before a different show next door.  I generally feel like I can hang with the hipsters despite my advanced age.  I have the requisite thick-rimmed glasses, skinny jeans and visible tattoos.  In this instance though, I had far too few tattoos and my clothes were too recently washed so I felt conspicuous and decided to go inside to grab a beer and wait for my friends.

I should point out that this act alone required great courage on my part as I tend to have a smidge of social anxiety disorder.  (My official diagnosis is a smidge of social anxiety, a sprinkling of OCD and a large dollop of depression.)  While, I have mastered my fears of eating at a restaurant alone and going to a movie alone, sitting at a bar alone still makes my palms sweat a bit so I generally avoid it at all costs.  Luckily, though the space was small, there were a few tables.  So I bought myself a Guinness (Little Green Cars are Irish, so it seemed only fitting) and sat down at one.  From there, I could hunker down, get engrossed in the many entertaining tidbits on my phone and check out the crowd.

Except, there really wasn’t a crowd yet.  In fact, in hindsight, I’m pretty sure I walked in the door with a few members of the opening band.  In my youth, heading out at midnight to go to a bar or a party was not unheard of.  These days, if I have a babysitter, I am out of the door the moment she arrives so I don’t have to deal with the dinner/bath/bedtime drama.  I mean, that’s what I’m paying for, right?  If I’d known I was going to be early and so very alone, I would have stopped to browse at the closest book store or something.

But, alas, I had lots of time for reflection which, in my case, is never a good thing.  I started looking around and determined that I was likely the oldest one there.  (It’s kind of hard to tell how old the guys are these days since they’re all sporting long, burly beards…which I find adorable, but still a bit confusing.)  I did conclude without a doubt though, that I was the only one there carrying a big-ass mom purse.

For a moment I wished I’d stuffed my More magazine in there instead of leaving it in the car.  The thought of being spotted by some young hipster reading “Dress 10 Pounds Thinner: We Target Your Wiggly Bits” was simply too much to bear, however.  At the moment, my particular wiggly bits were being corralled by the spandex in my skinny jeans and I didn’t want to out myself.

The room began to fill up and I gleefully spotted another woman, who appeared about my age, carrying a voluminous Louis Vuitton bag which I imagined was as stuffed with Lego figures, band-aids and other kid detritus as mine.  My comfort was quickly shattered, however, when her teenaged daughter yelled, “MOM!” from across the room.  I should mention that this was an all-ages show, so there were (literal) children in attendance who were years younger than my own babysitter.  I even had to wear a wristband (for which I was carded) to indicate that I was of legal drinking age.  Seriously?!  Granted the lighting was low, but there is an obvious canyon bisecting the forehead space above my finely-lined eyes. It’s hard to miss.

LV woman and her daughter were shortly joined by her son and very gray-haired husband and and I thought, “Oh how nice.  They’re a family that enjoys going out to watch indie rock bands together.  You just don’t see that enough these days.”

I was considering how lame I would look doing a crossword puzzle on my phone when E and M arrived and I quickly forgot that they’d abandoned me to the harsh judgment of a room full of 20-somethings.  Anyway, soon the opening band started playing and it quickly became clear that LV woman and her family were only there to support her son who was now up on stage playing a guitar.  Ah, yes…I should have known.  Generally, the “elderly” people in the audience at rock shows are only there to cheer on their children.  Ugh.  The daughter proceeded to text nonstop through the entire performance.

After the underwhelming opening band (bless their hearts) finished their set, Little Green Cars took the stage and my mind was completely blown!  They were even better live than on their CD*.  In fact, they were one of the best live bands I’ve ever seen.  It didn’t even bother me that, as the entire band is made up of 20 year-olds, I could easily have given birth to any one of them, no scandalous teenage pregnancy necessary.  I probably shouldn’t point out that M and I both found the male lead singer quite attractive despite the fact that he’s not even old enough to legally drink in the US, but really, when have I shown any shame before?

The evening turned out to be wildly fun and I was happy that I’d dragged myself out on a Tuesday instead of succumbing to the siren song of my pajamas and the couch at 8 pm as usual.  It wasn’t until the next day that it dawned on me that all my anxiety was for naught.  The young hipsters probably didn’t even register that I was there.  Doesn’t the act of turning 40 render one invisible to under-30-year-old eyeballs?  My experience thus far points to yes.  I’ve found the transition from “hey, check out the hottie” to “wow, she’s a cool mom” to be the most awkward and uncomfortable change I’ve weathered since puberty.  But in the light of day, I also realized the only one judging me for my age (at least overtly) is me and I’d better get the fuck over it or I’m going to miss a lot of great bands over the next 40 years.

* While proofreading this post for me, my friend A said it was cute that I stopped myself from typing “album” when “CD” is now a pretty archaic term as well.  So I stabbed her and buried her body somewhere in the space between our two backyards.

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