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09 February 2014

American Hustle (Review): “Not Just America, the World Hustles As Well”

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To an outsider, David O. Russell’s “American Hustle” may seem just another period film set in the precarious decades of the 70s. Visually, America in the 70s was very distinct. Men were sensitive but retaining their masculinity. They dressed well, a bit too flamboyant if measured by current standard. Men went to discos and did not feel embarrassed dancing with a girl in public.  Women had beautifully wavy long hair. They were starting to come out on their own but still maintaining their feminity, whether by force or by choice.  However, these are just my assumptions based on my readings and my observations of my aunts in the late 70s. Apparently, 70s America spilled over in the Philippines. But I digress.

“American Hustle” is Russell’s ode to art of deception and moral pragmatism. America, after all, is all about deceptive images.  In fact, it is not even fair to use the word “America” as synonymous to elaborate trickery. Calling “America” deceitful is a convenient excuse for an outsider.  Demonizing America is a safe excuse for the rest of the world but we must also face that the rest of us are willing players in conning people to get what we want. From the ordinary individual to big companies and big governments, we lie one way or the other.

In truth, the “capitalist system” or the “culture of consumerism” breeds and provides the necessity for deception.  As the main character of the film Irving Rosenfeld stated,

“As far as I could see people were always conning each other to get what they wanted. We even con ourselves. We talk ourselves into things, you know, we sell ourselves things. When we don't even need or want, you know, we're dressing them up. We leave out the risk; we leave out the ugly truth.”

In the end, “American Hustle” comically declares that the genuinely truthful individual, (if there is such a person) does not always win, but the victors are often times the people who played their deception quite well, and with some semblance of moral pragmatism. Based on the circumstances, the lesser of two evils automatically ride the high horse.

This grayness in morality play is still alive in our country, not just in America. Look at Chavit Singson and Joseph Estrada. When Singson accused Estrada of fraud, Singson became the hero. When Gloria, Estrada’s successor and jailer, was accused of corruption and imprisoned, Estrada’s record was almost wiped clean in the public eye. Suddenly, he became a victim. He was even elected as mayor. And so the hustles continue.

Mesmerizing Amy
The hustle is not just in America, it happens everywhere, in fact any place where the desire for money and power rule.

“American Hustle” boosts of an outstanding ensemble cast including Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro, Jeremy Renner and the very entertaining Jennifer Lawrence. Christian Bale is in top form being his usual method self but the show belongs to Amy Adams. As Sydney Prosser and Lady Edith Greensley, Adams threads the precarious line between comedy and drama. Just superb.

Image created using Bitstrips

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