By: Mary Fran Bontempo
In the heavily Oscar nominated film, American Hustle, stars Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence make 70’s era polyester look positively glamorous. The slinky, clingy, cut down-to-there fashions sported by the movie’s two leading ladies would make anyone who didn’t live through the 70’s think the decade was loaded with fashion highlights.
It wasn’t. Seventies’ attire, although high in glitz, was generally cheap, poorly made and pretty ugly. Witness my bridesmaids’ dresses. Ugh. Genuine glamor seemed to pass right over the 70’s. Polyester might look good at first glance, but on closer inspection, well, think leisure suits and Cousin Eddie from Christmas Vacation.
But polyester, cheap suits and corruption are the order of the day in American Hustle, the movie loosely based on the Abscam scandal in the late 70’s when the FBI managed to catch numerous corrupt politicians taking bribes. The actual sting was a dirty business, and American Hustle mimics the vibe.
Which may be why I wasn’t a fan. I need to like at least one character in a movie–have someone to root for. In American Hustle, everyone is rotten–not a good guy or gal in the whole, smarmy mix.
The performances are excellent: Christian Bale has transformed himself as small time crook, Irving Rosenfeld, forced into working with maniacal FBI agent, Richie DiMaso, played with Silver Linings Playbook intensity by Bradley Cooper, no stranger to over-the-top characters. Amy Adams is flinty and vulnerable at the same time as Sydney Prosser, Rosenfeld’s female accomplice and Jennifer Lawrence rounds out the cast with a performance far beyond her 23 years as Irving’s borderline bi-polar young wife, Rosalyn. But they’re all awful. As people, that is.
Some have billed the movie as a comedy. It isn’t. It’s a well-acted film depicting the seamy side of life, with the good guys and bad guys vying for the role of most unlikeable character.
See it if you’re into well done films. But if you’re looking for a story in which you can cheer someone on, go see Captain Philips, another nominated movie. At least there, it’s clear who should win the day.