Wednesday, 5 March 2014

American Hustle.

This weeks Robert Burns Centre Film Theatre Film Club screening has been rightly described as a watchable black comedy.[1] American Hustle (2013), shot using locations in an around Boston, Massachusetts, had been nominated for ten Academy Awards at the 2014 Oscar ceremony but it won none! Considering it had already won two BAFTA awards in February, one for Jennifer Lawrence[2] for Best Actress in a Supporting Role and another for Best Screenplay and three awards at this years Golden Globe’s including Best Picture, Best Actress for Amy Adams[3] and Jennifer Lawrence for Best Actress in a Supporting Role, this came as quite a surprise, considering the quality of acting from the two female leads.
A fantastic performance from both Jennifer Lawrence and ....
Before the screening began there was a short introduction about what are the ingredients of a good film? I have always said it’s down to a good story that’s well told, but that’s probable an over simplification, and to be honest there’s a lot more to it. Hollywood mainstream movies tend to have guaranteed star-pulling power and American Hustle is no exception, therefore it would not have been a problem raising the budget to make it, unlike lets say British independent movies which always have problems raising even a small budget and at times have to go abroad to raise the cash. This weeks movie is said to have cost between $40 and $50 million dollars to make, but up to the 6th February 2014 box office receipts were said to be in the region of $187 million dollars and that was before the BAFTA’s and of course would of greatly increased if it had won some prominent awards at the Oscars.
....and Amy Adams....
But even if you have got the stars and the money you still need a good story. The narrative is loosely based an a FBI sting operation that took place in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s and began its life as a screenplay entitled American Bullshit (I’m not surprised they changed the name!) written by Eric Warren Singer, and rewritten by David O Russell who replaced the characters with caricatures of their respective real-life figures, Christian Bale[4] revealed in an interview that the majority of his character interactions were improvised in multiple takes in which he questioned David O. Russell about the plot. Russell responded that what he had wanted was to focus on the characters, rather than the plot.
....whose characters can't quite bond....
Next we need a director of some standing to turn lots of money and a screenplay into something that people will pay to watch. For this production we have the aforementioned David O Russell who, based on his last two feature films is the right man for the job. In 2010 Russell made the award winning biographical sports drama The Fighter, the story of welterweight boxer Mickey Ward and starred Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Melissa Leo and Amy Adams. He followed this with another award winning film Silver Linings Playbook, which won Jennifer Lawrence a Best Actress Award. It’s a film with which Russell manages to walk a thin line between romance, comedy and a dark psychological drama. As well as Lawrence it stared Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro and the wonderful Jackie Weaver.
....mainly due to an FBI officer and a con man!
You will have noticed that the star power I mentioned involves some of the actresses and actors I have spoken about in connection with Russell’s previous work. They include Christian Bale[5], Bradley Cooper[6], Amy Adams, Jennifer Lawrence with the addition of Jeremy Renner[7], and in an uncredited part Robert De Niro. That just leaves us to acknowledge the technicians and crew without whom this, or any other film could have not been made.
A Hollywood movie with style.
Basically a full house at the RBC went home entertained by a film that after it got into its stride was very funny and impeccably cast especially as I said previously, the two female leads. With the best scene in the film featuring Jennifer Lawrence in yellow marigolds singing Live and Let Die (see link below). It’s a film with oodles of style and looks so good up on the big screen made even better by the choice of soundtrack (any film that starts with America singing A Horse with No Name is never going to disappoint). And yes the director was right to concentrate on the characters. Film critic Mark Kermode asked the question Is this film anything more than a brilliantly window dressed period piece with a ring-a-ding performances from an all star cast remains to be seen” my answer to this would be yes, it’s a film that’s great fun and one I can’t wait to see again.

[1] Peter Bradshaw The Guardian 20/12/2013
[2] Lawrence's lead role in Debra Granik's Winter's Bone, which won best picture at the Sundance Film Festival in 2010, is often cited as a breakout performance for her. She portrays Ree Dolly, a seventeen-year-old in the Ozark Mountains who cares for her mentally ill mother and her younger brother and sister.
[3] Junebug (2005), Charlie Wilsons War (2007) Doubt (2008) The Muppets (2011) The Master (2012) On the Road (2012)
[4] To prepare for the role, Christian Bale gained 50 pounds.
[5] Bale, famous for his radical physical transformations on screen, received great commercial recognition for his role as Bruce Wayne/Batman in the three Bateman films (2005,2008 and 2012).
[6] The Place Beyond the Pines (2013)
[7] Best known for his roles in The Hurt Locker (2008) for which he received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor,

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