In the dying moments of 2013, American Hustle scores a home run in the nick of time to be one of the best flicks of the year.
It was with some sense of surprise I sat in the cinema watching American Hustle, not on my todd as I expected to be, but in the company of my good lady wife, the much put upon Mrs. Kosher Kritic.
Why would this be a surprise? Especially in light of the fact that the Kosher Kritic is incapable of doing ANYTHING without his wife. The only reason she doesn’t tie my shoes for me is because I switched to Crocks some years back.
In true great Hollywood fashion, we need to flash back to several weeks earlier to get the answer.
And our flashback takes us to – where else – the cinema, where the Kosher Kritic and wife was waiting for another movie to start (the excellent ‘Gravity’ – what, you haven’t read my review? Click here and repent sinner).
And then the trailer for American Hustle comes up, and it looks….AWESOME!!!! I love it immediately; the cast, the late 70s setting, the hair spray, the music, the clothes. I just love it.
I look over at my wife, and she looks back at me. I’m about to tell her how much I can’t wait to see this movie, and she says…
“That, looks DISGUSTING!”
Yes, Mrs. Kosher Kritic is so turned off by the trailer, by everything that I loved; she’s literally angry at it.
And thus a rift was born in the Kosher Kritic household. A fracture in the martial bliss that did not abate.
But why doesn’t she like it at all? It looks sleazy and dirty, she tells me (like they’re bad things!!??). OK, so, it’s not her cup of tea. Fine. I’ll go and see it on my own.
I’m not allowed to see it on my own.
But why not? Because according to Mrs. Kosher Kritic “that’s weird and creepy”.
By now the early reviews are out, and it’s getting insane buzz. There’s a clip online released, where Jennifer Lawrence’s character sets fire to the kitchen by putting metal foil in the new microwave oven (which they hilariously call the science oven), and then she berates her on screen husband, Christian Bale, for being such a looser for allowing it to happen in the first place.
It’s a near perfect scene. Brilliantly written and performed by the top people in the industry. It’s a perfect representation of what the movie is.
And upon viewing the clip, Mrs. Kosher Kritic tells me that she’s going to see ti with me.
But…what if it is sleazy and dirty??? Then the Kosher Kritic is in trouble, and sent to the dog house.
Can I just see it on my own, I beg.
Seeing movies on your own is weird and creepy.
Cut back to the present. I’m sitting with my wife waiting for the movie to start, experiencing and strange mixture of gleeful anticipation, for what I hope will be one of the movie going highlights of the year. And deep dread that it will be one of the movie going high lights of the year which happens to be both sleazy and dirty. And it’s a pretty fair bet that it’s going to be.
So, this is how great the movie is – Mrs. Kosher Kritic found it almost tolerable. And that’s going from a position of utter hatred. The sheer tidal wave of talent on screen all worked hard, not only to make a great movie, bit also save yours truly from being in marital strife.
And what a tidal wave of talent it is. The cast is headed by former Batman, the aforementioned Christian Bale, playing cheap con man Irving Rosenfeld. Bale is virtually unrecognizable in the role. The opening scene is him patiently and methodically combing over his thinning hair and applying his toupee, and squeezing in his massive belly to create his groomed charming persona.
Amy Adams is his partner in crime – fellow hustler and the love of Rosenfeld’s life, Sydney Prosser. Adams (as always) brings her A game to the table, delivering a nuanced layered performance of a highly intelligent woman who will do anything to survive and thrive.
If you’re paying attention you might be confused at this point, if Adams is the love of Rosenfeld’s life, then how is his on screen wife Jennifer Lawrence’s character, Rosalyn?
Well, she just is. Rosenfeld, for all his slight of hand and professional deception, is the most open and honest character in the movie. He neither hides either woman from each other, or apologizes for being in a relationship with them both.
That’s one of the things that makes American Hustle such an enriching viewing experience, the authentic layered duality of it’s players, making for very realistic three dimensional characters. Rosenfeld is a beacon of honesty in a sea of avarice. Yes he is a con man, but he is always true and honest to himself and his values, never betraying them for greed.
And greed is really what American Hustle is all about. Greed and what it does to people.
Bradley Cooper is excellent as Richie DiMaso, an FBI agent, driven by professional greed. Driven to prove himself and make a bigger and bigger bust.
Jeremy Renner is excellent as Mayor Carmine Polito, a man driven to build a better community. But being a politician, he deals in the currency of greed, is adept at the art of manipulating people’s greed and ultimately succumbs to his own greed.
So, like all the best stories, American Hustle is a morality tale. And like all the best movies, it’s a super fun ride. Confidently directed David O. Russell, coming off his success of the Silver Linings Playbook, he’s crafted a modern classic.
Two cameos really knock this one out of the park. Robert De Niro FINALLY stops goofing around in screwball comedies, and gives us a breath taking 10 minutes or so on screen as a terrifying mob boss.
Slightly more than a cameo, Louis C.K. is mesmerizing as Bradley Cooper’s haggard and often abused FBI boss. He tells a fishing story throughout the movie, that we never get to hear the punchline of, and it’s all the funnier because of it. (Although he did tell the end of the story on Jay Leno recently, and said they shot it, so maybe it’ll be on the DVD as an extra).
But is it Kosher
Hmmmm…Tricky one this. Mrs Kosher Kritic definitely did not think so, but it just didn’t seem that dirty to me.
(Just to ram home our differing outlooks, Mrs. Kosher Kritic, who dutifully proof reads my many pros, left one editorial note by this section, that I’ll reprint for you, dear reader, in it’s entirety:
VIOLENCE? LANGUAGE? NUDITY???!!!!!
This has been a public service announcement on behalf of Mrs. Kosher Kritic)
Yes, it was sleazy. It’s a movie about sleazy people, or good people becoming sleazy. Amy Adams certainly wears some very skimpy and revealing outfits, as does Jennifer Lawrence. Also, both women are very aware of their own sexuality and do use it as a weapon.
So, sleazy, yes. Dirty, I don’t think so.
As always, follow the example of Christian Bale’s very Jewish Irving Rosenfeld, and understand your own morality and don’t compromise it. That’s the only way of deciding if American Hustle is kosher enough for you.
Starring: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence and Jeremy Renner
Directed by: David O Russell
Run Time: 138 minutes
Release Date: 20 December 2013 (USA) 26 December 2013 (Israel)
Kosher Kritic Rating: 4 1/2 Matzo Balls (out of 5)
Check out more Movie, TV and Restaurant reviews at www.thekosherkritic.com