American Hustle

American Hustle ★★

Overrated. Wildly overrated. Almost criminally overrated. I cannot say enough how overrated American Hustle is. I've been reading the reviews from all of my LB friends as they've come in, one by one, and they've been divisive to say the least, proclaiming it to be either a masterpiece or a mess. I'm a pretty late guest to the party, but I finally got around to watching American Hustle last night and as the credits rolled, I was so frustrated with what I had just watched that I went straight to bed.

David O. Russell is certainly an energetic director and his energy is palpable when watching this film, but it feels like the nervous energy of a cocaine addict who is trying desperately to panhandle some money off you so he can get his next fix. The story is not particularly interesting or exciting. It just comes off as a sloppy mess filled with contrivances that is made even more exasperating by an equally contrived and confusing script. The voice-overs hurt the film more than they helped it, and while the dialogue itself wasn't written terribly, it was often unnecessarily lengthy, making many scenes drag on longer than necessary, in need of a trim, like a bad haircut. I'm also not a fan of films that shove exposition down your throat at every turn, and calling American Hustle exposition heavy is putting it lightly.

Now to the cast. This film has an incredibly strong cast, who have earned their fair share of well-deserved praise from many roles. There isn't really a weak link to be found. But with it's sloppy script and convoluted plot, it felt like a bunch of great actors thrown together to see which of them could act better than the others. It doesn't help that most of the characters are wildly undeveloped and feel like they have one defining personality trait and nothing else. I thought Christian Bale and Bradley Cooper were both great, but the standout performances were Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence. Their characters weren't especially interesting, or very good for that matter, but they both managed to add a touch of realness that I briefly appreciated.

In summation, I really don't understand why American Hustle has so many Academy nominations. It's just a pure mystery to me. It's a film that has a decent amount of potential, but it fails to realize this potential with almost every scene that passes and just comes off as utterly underwhelming. It's not terrible, it has a solid cast and excellent attention to visual detail, but it all feels completely vapid. It certainly doesn't stand up to The Wolf of Wall Street, which I've heard endless comparisons to. For me, American Hustle was essentially a reinforcement for why I don't put much merit in the choices of the Academy. Nothing but hype.

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