The award season is in full effect. Every film that is released during this time of year has one goal, and one goal alone, WIN THE OSCAR.
One of the key contenders this year is David O. Russell’s newest film ‘American Hustle’. Described by Russell as ‘Boogie Nights as if it were directed by Martin Scorsese.’ This is an apt description of the wonderful film that David O. Russell and company have created. The only problem is that it’s a little too apt. American Hustle feels like a carbon copy. It feels like Russell imitating Martin Scorsese as opposed to being inspired by him.
American Hustle is an excellent awards season film. It has an all-star cast who act the beans out of the material they’re given. It has beautiful cinematography and the costumes are absolutely perfect. To say this film is a period piece doesn’t do it justice. It’s a film that embellishes and dances around the best parts of the 1970’s.
The real genius of American Hustle lies slightly out of sight. Yes, the acting is perfect. And yes, the costuming is spot on. However, the real important element that sets American Hustle apart from other period of award season offerings is on the page. In the script. It’s in the structure. Without revealing too much, the cliched ‘twist’ ending is dealt with in a completely unique and original way in American Hustle. It’s through repetition and ingenious structural tricks that Russell takes a movie that has a very cliched ending and really lets it breathe. It really allows the film to be it’s own creature.
Unfortunately, the area that really falls flat is in Russell’s directorial choices. Russell is so preoccupied with the recreation and mimicry of Martin Scorsese that he almost disappears. The flash and grandiose nature of the Scorsese overwhelms the intimate nature of Russell’s finer points. Yes, Russell has always had a knack for rapid cuts and swirling camera movements, just like Scorsese. This time around? He’s literally mimicking him and it’s distracting. Supremely so.
American Hustle is sure to be nominated for numerous awards. And hopefully it’ll win some of them. And as for David O. Russell? Hopefully, next time he leaves the Martin Scorsese influence at home.