Posts Tagged ‘Louis C.K.’

American Hustle: Happy to be Played—Movie

January 3, 2014

American Hustle” is a three-ring circus of a movie with juggling extraordinaire by the ultimate ringmaster, David O. Russell, the film’s director. Somehow he makes it all work. Written by Russell and Eric Singer, “American Hustle” is loosely based on the Abscam FBI sting of the late 1970s. The film localizes the story and takes us behind the scenes for the New Jersey aspect of the operation.American Hustle

Christian Bale is Irving Rosenfeld, who owns a legitimate dry cleaning firm, but runs financial scams on the side. He meets Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) at a Long Island pool party and the two connect over a shared love for Duke Ellington. Although Irving is married, the two become a romantic couple. She joins forces with Irving in his illegal activity and all goes well until they scam the wrong person, undercover FBI agent, Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper). He’s looking to make it big in the Bureau and in exchange for no prosecution, Irving and Sydney agree to help him with his plan to bring down Camden Mayor Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner) as well as other politicians.

Actors seem to do their best work in David O. Russell’s films and “American Hustle” is no exception. Christian Bale, with a paunch and comb-over to match Donald Trump in its elaborate badness is terrific. He’s done some amazing work over the past few years—each role completely different from the next—and in “American Hustle” he shines. There’s not a false note in his performance…Bronx accent and all. Amy Adams gives a wonderful portrayal as Irving’s soul mate and partner in crime. Sexpot is not the word with which one would normally associate her, but when she gets the chance to turn on the glam and sex appeal—yowza! She is utterly believable as a classy English criminal or sexy girlfriend to both of the two male leads. And when she needs to be tough as nails, Adams delivers. Bradley Cooper’s Richie is very good—perm’d hair and all—as the conniving agent on the rise…he hopes. Cooper seems to have more complicated, quick dialogue than anyone else and is terrific with it all. He does a great job in the comedic scenes with Patsy Meck who plays his mother. His Bureau work is also very good, especially in the scenes with Louis C.K. (who is also wonderful) as his boss, Stoddard Thorsen. Jeremy Renner is fine as the targeted mayor who wants to revitalize Atlantic City and is very convincing in his sense of betrayal.  Finally, there is Jennifer Lawrence as Irving’s wife, Rosalyn. To say she is fabulous is an understatement. Lawrence may be her generation’s most versatile actress. She can play a broad range of ages and her commitment to each part makes us believe her in whatever she does. In “American Hustle” she makes spectacular entrances in a variety of scenes—talk about opening doors—and certainly house-cleaning will never be the same. As a couple, she and Christian Bale perfectly illustrate the concept “can’t live with him/her, can’t live without him/her.

“American Hustle” has a few surprising cameos, but they are more than stunt casting. They actually work. There is a very large supporting cast and they all add immensely to the film.

The late 70s and early 80s produced some of the most hideous fashion and hair-do’s in our nation’s history and “American Hustle” captures them all to perfection. Even the electric rollers that Amy Adams wears are spot on.

This is a complicated movie, but Russell does a fantastic job in guiding the ship. The mark of a good film is when you want to learn more about the topic. It’s not often that a historical film piques your curiosity for more while being plain fun on every level. “American Hustle” is such a film.

4 nuggets out of 4

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Blue Jasmine: A Beautiful Flower in a Summer Full of Weeds—Movie

August 2, 2013

“Have you ever gotten high on nitrous oxide?”That may be one of the worse pickup lines in the history of pickup lines, but it’s just one of the gems from Woody Allen’s latest, “Blue Jasmine.”

I don’t know how it’s possible, but Woody Allen just gets better with age. “Blue Jasmine” is unlike anything he’s done before and it’s just plain wonderful. The film is like watching a master-class in acting, writing and directing—all in one sitting. Even the selection of the music is spot-on.bluejasmine-poster

“Blue Jasmine” is the bittersweet story of upscale, sophisticated Jasmine (Cate Blanchett), who moves from New York City to San Francisco to live with her lower middle-class sister, Ginger (Sally Hawkins), and her two young sons.

Allen tells Jasmine’s back-story in bits and pieces. We learn that she was happily married…or so she thought…to wealthy businessman Hal (Alec Baldwin), living the good life of dinner parties, high society and excess. When that world crashes down around her, she has a nervous breakdown. Upon recovery, she makes her way to San Francisco to reinvent herself.

While Jasmine’s head is up in the clouds, Ginger is more practical. Jasmine is not content with who or what she is. Ginger, on the other hand, comes to realize that “good enough” can actually be great.

Allen has given actresses some of their most memorable roles, and with Jasmine he has done so again. Cate Blanchett delivers an absolutely mesmerizing performance. Her Jasmine is at times so delicate, that you really worry for her survival. Her character has a number of facets—self-confidence, eccentricity, fragility, creativity and even mental toughness. Blanchett plays them all to perfection.

Sally Hawkins, not as well-known to American audiences as Blanchett, matches her step for step in a less showy role. She’s completely believable as the hard-luck sister, looking for her prince. Her scenes with Andrew Dice Clay (Augie), Bobby Cannavale (Chili) and Louis C.K (Al)…husband, fiancé and suitor respectively…are brilliant. Each relationship is slightly different and extremely genuine. The actors are also very good, particularly Cannavale. His role is not especially likable, but his fine acting wins you over in the end.

Peter Sarsgaard (Dwight) has a small, but important part as Jasmine’s new-found love interest. We’re not sure if he’s too good to be true, and in a weird way, his relationship with Jasmine ends up mirroring that of Ginger and Al.

Alec Baldwin is impeccably cast as Jasmine’s husband, Hal. It would have been easy to make his character just one color, but Allen and Baldwin give him layers. We find out about his true nature early on in the film, but surprises are still in store.

The film’s conclusion is a bit jarring, but like everything else about “Blue Jasmine,” is utterly perfect. To be true to the character and the film, it couldn’t end any other way.

Woody Allen will always be identified with New York, but his most recent films have been done overseas and in this case, California. This shift seems to have given him a new lease on life and movies. It seemed that “Vicky Cristina Barcelona“and “Midnight in Paris” would be hard to beat, but with “Blue Jasmine” Allen has done something completely different and topped them both.

4 nuggets out of 4


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