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American Hustle

American Hustle (now out on DVD) is quite the movie. When I first walked out of the theater I left with the lack of fulfillment that you almost never feel when you watch a movie. Movies traditionally follow some sort of generic story arc that inevitably ends exactly as you thought it would and with all the loose ends tied neatly into a bow. American Hustle… doesn’t. I sat across a dinner table from my dad and tried to figure exactly what it was about the film that left me feeling like what I’d seen hadn’t been a movie. Finally, it dawned on me. American Hustle watches the way a short story reads.

The characters are well rounded. The mayor is a good guy trying to do the right thing for his community, but in doing so he winds up doing the exact wrong thing. The main character is a guy stuck with a wife he no longer loves because he can’t lose his kid in the divorce. The leading female role features a woman torn by the main character’s inability to leave his wife, but her own desire for him. The characters are full and their story is driven by conflict. They are brilliantly portrayed with unexpected twists and detailed lives that shape them into highly believable characters.

The plot itself seems as if it’s less about what happens and more about what happens to each character. In times of struggle these characters are presented with choices that, no matter what they choose, impact the lives of the other supporting characters around them. It’s like a microcosm of reality captured in a flat screen television. There are bumps and unexpected turns (it is a movie about con-artists, after all), humor and some sadness.

It’s a movie worth watching because it feels like reading a book, without the need for reading glasses.

2 Responses to “American Hustle”

  1. Jenny, you suggest that this movie “watches the way a short story reads.” I’m wondering, though, about point-of-view. How does the film project a point-of-view? Or, if there is no clearly established point-of-view, is that a central ingredient in the audience being unsure as to who is “hustling” whom?

  2. Jenny Mix says:

    I think that point of view in this film changes. At first you are presented with Irving and Sydney’s perspective on life and the struggles it has presented them with. They briefly detail their history so that the present will make more sense. This is done through some voice overs about the past, primarily focusing on Irving and his childhood and how he first met Sydney, though it also brings in the con business to create the conflict that stirs the story into action. But when conflict arises between the Sydney and Irving and a master plan is devised to do more hustling than Richie had anticipated, the film backs away from their perspective so that the audience finds the hustling to be just as shocking as Richie did. The protagonist is obvious, though. The audience feels a connection to Irving, Sydney, and a lesser, though still significant, connection to Mayor Polito.