Knee-jerk review: "American Hustle"

1. Overrated.
2. This is another movie that feels flat because it just goes on too long.  The plot gets a much-needed kick when Robert DeNiro shows up as a menacing mobster.  That cranks up the stakes considerably and takes the story to a whole other level.  So the last half hour or so is very strong.  And the final twist is particularly delicious, delivering a great comeuppance to one very-deserving character.  But the rest...
3. The fact that it was nominated for ten Oscars and won zero leads up to suspect that the Academy kind of fell for the hype also.  Looks good enough for lots of nominations, but less so upon further inspection when it came time to actually choose winners.
4. Here's a little more about the real-life "Abscam" case that inspired the movie.
5. The Fighter had a lot of grit and punch, true.  But to us, Silver Linings Playbook and Three Kings remains our favorite David O. Russell movies.
6. These are some pretty unlikable people, which doesn't always make for a fun moviegoing experience.  And the fact that everyone's wearing ugly 1970s clothes and ridiculous hair... it can sort of be unpleasant just to look at everyone.
7. Christian Bale really is a marvel, don't you think?  This guy completely disappears into his roles.  Here he's hiding behind a bad comb-over, giant amber glasses, a beard, plus a beer belly and a New York accent.  It's hard to believe he was ever Bruce Wayne.  
8. Looking back over the list here, we can't help but notice parallels to The Wolf of Wall Street, another too-long movie based on a true story (and directed by a celebrated auteur filmmaker) full of icky characters making amoral, selfish choices.  And both involve awful scenes where parents curse and shout and attack one another in front of their children.  Is there something in the cultural zeitgeist that's leading to this kind of story?  
9. As with any self-respecting movie set in the 1970s or 1980s, the soundtrack is chock full of fun old songs.
10. Amy Adams' dresses are certainly memorable. 
11. We wonder what might have happened if the story focused more on the machinations of the swindles and the "who's conning who?" ambiguities and less time exploring the confusing layers of these obnoxious characters.  
12. We suppose we're glad we saw it.  Kind of.

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