Review: American Hustle

Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Renner, Christian Bale and Jennifer Lawrence in American Hustle.
Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Renner, Christian Bale and Jennifer Lawrence in American Hustle.

John Connor’s Big Con
Rating: ***

A running joke in my movie group was that Christian Bale, who plays a con man in American Hustle is in fact a Connor – John Connor of Terminator: Salvation. In David O. Russell’s new film set in the late 70s, Bale plays Irving Rosenfield, an old school con artist who has found success, but is still thirsty for more.

This brings us to Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) who joins Rosenfield’s con gang as Lady Edith Greensley, a fake British aristocrat. Adams has had her fair share of memorable performances but American Hustle (much like David O. Russell’s earlier film, The Fighter) travels to a land far away from her girl-next-door image. Here in American Hustle, she is the pot of gold – the reward everyone wants.

Justifiably, she buries herself underneath low-cut gowns and really (and I mean really) high heels. With all that glitz and makeup, one may wonder whether Adams was going to a Farrah Fawcett party and took the wrong bus.

Rosenfield’s guilt trip begins with Mayor Carmine Polito, a legit man, living a decent life, who is sweet talked into taking a bribe. Jeremy Renner is a fine candidate for the role of Mayor Polito. With two Oscar nominated roles in his kitty, this is cake walk for Renner.

The problem with American Hustle begins with Richie DiMasso, a young FBI agent (played by Bradley Cooper) who wants to be famous for pulling off the biggest intelligence operation ever. There are a couple of scenes that provide us little information on the life and times of DiMasso, which of course could have been avoided.

Much like Argo, American Hustle tries to become a personal battle than a political thriller. The success of ABSCAM isn’t the real deal, Rosenfield’s survival is.

He’s a con artist, and he helps FBI pull off a scam. But, what makes Rosenfield a common man is his estranged, neurotic wife (played by Jennifer Lawrence). She explains in one scene “you can’t divorce me because you fear I’ll talk about your illegal activities.”

That’s right, Rosenfield. You’re whipped for life!

American Hustle is a star-studded seventies crime comedy that bears plenty of resemblance to the Martin Scorsese mafia classic Goodfellas. There are the voiceovers (one each for Bale, Adams and Cooper), the constant usage of classic rock and jazz music, and of course Robert De Niro as a mafioso.

American Hustle is an old-fashioned, unapologetic, commercial cocktail prepared in Russell’s trademark style. It’s clever, funny and sometimes over the top. But, that’s the joie de vivre in watching a David O. Russell film.

Review: Julie & Julia

Julie & Julia Theatrical Poster

A Delicious Meal Cooked To Perfection By Streep and Adams

Julie & Julia (PG-13)

Director: Nora Ephron

Cast: Meryl Streep, Amy Adams, Stanley Tucci

Genre: Comedy Drama

Rating ****

Ratatouille was an amazing film. It’s about a rat which aspires to become the best cook in Paris. Well, Ratatouille has carried a little inspiration from the life of Julia Child who wanted to become the best French cook in American land. Her moral support was her beloved husband, Paul. Half a century later, thirty year old hard-working Julie Powell decided to start a blog where she would cook all the 524 recipes in just a year. She maintained a blog and stood true to it. Her problem was her husband, Eric with whom she often argued.

Julie & Julia is based on two books. One written by Julia Child and Alex Prud’homme is My Life in France which recounts her French experience. The other is a memoir written by Julie Powell named Julie & Julia. Nora Ephron has combined both the books to bring out a past-present setup which was first introduced in Godfather Part II. Julie & Julia is set partly after World War II and partly after 9/11.

Meryl Streep combines Julia Child’s voice and her own acting talents to bring onscreen a lively portrayal. In the present day, Julie Powell struggles to bring life to her blog. Her adventures are carried out in her tiny apartment atop a pizzeria with her mystic cat and her emulative husband whom she disapproves of for not guiding her properly although he does half of her work.

The misfortunes of Julia Child in finding a publisher leads halfway through as she switches countries and finally lands in Massachusetts which brings her light. While Paul Child is brought to life by a charismatic portrayal by Stanley Tucci, Streep does overlook her performance as Julia Child. The film is at heart, a beautiful memoir recounting the change Julia Child has made in Julie Powell’s life. But, it rather sticks to them and doesn’t bring anyone else in it.

When Paul Child has more space, Eric Powell shares very little space and is often there for an argument. Amy Adams as Julie Powell is scintillating. After an Academy Award nominated role as an innocent nun in Doubt (a role I loved), she plays a tired and bugged thirty year old who tries to take a chance on herself.

Movies on cooking are usually overlapped by romance (as in No Reservations). But, the movies which detail on cooking alone are fewer in number. Julie & Julia is such a film. Bon Appétit!