BY MICHELLE MEDFORD
Sometimes you fall in love with a movie and you can’t exactly define why. Maybe it’s the quirky, original screenplay with unforgettable lines. Maybe it’s the stellar cast, giving it their all. Maybe it’s the detailed set design and authentic costumes and make-up. Maybe it’s the talented director. But sometimes a movie has all of these and still can’t quite fall in love with it. That’s how I felt about American Hustle.
I struggled with this review for a long time. The thing is, I wanted to love this movie because I love Huckabees and Silver Linings so much and I couldn’t quite figure out what was lacking from this film. After weeks of agonizingly dissecting this movie in my head, I decided to approach the film from a different angle. I asked myself if there was anything about this movie that I truly loved, and there was: Jennifer Lawrence’s Rosalyn. Why did I love her performance so much? Because it was emotional and passionate, deep and unsettling. She got some heat for being too young for the role, a woman damaged by marriage and poor life decisions, a woman much older than 23. However, for me, her age added complexity to her character. Whether or not she was written as an older woman, to see a young person in such an unhappy place makes her character that much more tragic, and a character that only few young actresses can make so convincing.
It was this depth that I didn’t see throughout the rest of the movie. It’s not that I didn’t see conviction, dedication or talent on the part of the other actors, the director, writers or anyone else involved with the film, because I did. It’s because these on-screen roles were written as soulless characters, so much so that I had trouble believing them. They were so inhuman that I felt it was impossible for any of these character to be real–except maybe Sydney/Edith (Amy Adams) a bit, who did have some glimpses of emotion before falling victim to her lack of commitment, which was really just a result of wanting to feel loved in return.
Comparing this film to Huckabees, Silver Linings and even The Fighter, we see characters in those films fueled by passion or other deep-running emotions. In fact, emotions are the driving forces through these movies and that’s what made me love them and become a fan of David O. Russell. Coming into this movie, this is what I expected.
That being said, although this movie didn’t, as they say, “give me the feels,” I can’t help but commend its other aspects. The visuals were amazing. Set design, costumes, hair and make-up were perfect–and at times made me laugh. I also laughed at some of the brilliantly clever writing–“science oven” is now a new term in my vocabulary. And Russell’s captivating directing definitely can’t go unrecognized. The problem was, it was such a character-driven movie and the characters didn’t do it for me.
You probably think my harsh criticism will lead to bad rating, but I’m just being hard on this movie because I love Russell’s other films so much. My personal qualms aside, this movie was good. But maybe just good.