American Hustle ★★

An incoherent film that zooms from overcooked scene to scene with schizophrenic speed. It's been held up as some Kael-ite dream-movie full of gaudy pleasures and unrestrained actor-lovin'; but while I suppose O. Russell has nothing if not love (or, rather, lust) for his actors, the pleasures of the movie are all purely second-hand and shallow -- mostly having to do with the camera's sensuous, non-stop ogling of Amy Adams (who has never looked better). Worst of all is the faux-Scorsese narration, a shameless exposition-spewing device with no artistic interest; for instance, Bale tells us repeatedly how he loved Adams' character, even as we clearly see the two do movie-lover things in scene after scene.

The impression is that the film doesn't trust the audience to believe what it's selling. I didn't; and I certainly didn't believe Cooper or Lawrence, both terribly miscast. Cooper tries for some bizzaro-Elliot Gould schtick that ends in total embarrassment; he's better off playing stoic, virtuous men of the law, as in The Place Beyond the Pines. And Lawrence simply does not convince as someone with a 12 year-old kid, married for years, doing the washed-up Long Island wife routine; it, too, is embarrassing, and Lawrence can't even pull off the most perfunctory NY accent. But most embarrassing is that the movie has nothing to say. Its formal schizophrenia ultimately reflects nothing except the schizophrenia of our post-modern world, where, like, truth is impossible, man, and, like, everybody's a con-artist, man. Its depiction of the 70's is, then, typically kitschy and TV-derived, as if everybody in that decade lived out of Studio 54. There's no reason for the overblown unreality, just more PoMo surface-styling covering up an artistically conservative film that feigns wild risk-taking but revels in cliche's. O. Russell thinks his movie is jazz, but it's MOR at best.

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