I haven’t seen American Hustle, and I don’t think I will. At least not until it shows up included in my Netflix account. It’s not that I am not drawn in by the sexy crawl across the bed by Jennifer Lawrence, or the strutting down the street – three abreast & in slow motion – that I’ve seen in the trailers. I just don’t see a lot of films in the theatre, and if I do, I want it to be The Hobbit. My friend Mical, on the other hand, makes it a Christmas Day tradition to see a current movie – and this year she chose a big one: American Hustle. I’d seen loads of people recommend it on Twitter and Facebook and in blogs, so when her comment about tits and cons came across my screen, I took a second look. She agreed to let me re-post it here, so Thanks, Mical! FYI: She likes to say tits and schmuck a lot.
My annual Christmas film this year was “American Hustle.” Everyone loved it except me and the stranger snoring to my right.
I was expecting some sexism – for one thing, it’s a movie; for another, Amy Adams’s tits were selling it front & center. But I was still surprised by the extent of the sexism. For instance, they “develop” her character by giving her a past (as a stripper) and by telling us how smart she is. And it’s true that it’s her character’s tits and her fake British accent that lure in marks to her con. But I guess I never believed that the sum total of intelligence was contained in having a British accent, real or fake. And once the real fun starts – conning bribe-taking politicians into an FBI sting – she pretty much just follows the men around doing whatever they say, sitting around, flirting, and you know, showing off her tits.
Now, tits don’t equal sexism. And tits are not offensive. But treating all female characters as if their only value is to show off their tits (and I mean all female characters—every tertiary secretary taking dictation spills her breasts) is offensive to me. And treating all female characters as if their only importance is to provoke jealousy and tension between the important (male) characters is offensive to me. Call me old fashioned. And how about this: an incidental shot of Adams’ character getting frisked by a guard who pushes her dress up. That’s just like an off the cuff little violation shot. No biggie. We’re all adults. Women, this movie seems to say, get violated like this all the time. No. Big. Deal. It’s just fun, man! Get over it. It’s just fun. And sexy!
But okay, let’s get over the sexism for a second. Because I’ve got another piece of popcorn stuck in my teeth, and that’s the movie’s multiple lectures about how casinos are good for the economy. I’m just saying, if you think that casinos are good for working people; if you believe that politicians then or now bring in casinos for the good of those working people then that, my friend, is a con worth laughing at. Get thee to a copy of Robert Caro’s The Powerbroker and read a thing or two about land acquisitions for capital projects.
In American Hustle, I’m not just talking one lecture in the movie about the how mayor of Camden is just a good man trying to get casinos so the good people of Camden can have jobs (hello! people of Camden! Tell us, how’d those jobs work out?), I’m talking three, four, maybe more lectures in this movie about the wholesome family-loving benefits of casinos. What I want to know is how much did each one of those lectures cost? Who invested? I hope Trump dumped a truck of moola into this production, because if not, there’s something even very much more interesting going on.
So, the grand filmic vision is: casinos are engines of the economy, corrupt politicians are actually good, mobsters are no problem, and women are worth having around because of their tits. And where’s the problem? The problem, my friend, is the goddamned FBI spying on the people who are committing crimes.
What’s interesting to me is that when Carmela Soprano screamed at the FBI to leave her good husband alone, we loved her and we felt the irony; that’s what made that show so funny and brilliant. In American Hustle, the patsies are dumb shmucks who deserve to fall. The FBI is trying to stop corruption and crime is just one more dumb shmuck; in fact, the film is saying, we are all dumb shmucks. This is the grand filmic vision for the twenty-first century: we are all dumb shmucks who deserve to fall. So that’s another reason why I don’t find this fabulous titfest of a film fabulous. Or maybe it’s that we’re finally at the end of Bloomberg, and the whole vision of greedy people with fake accents defending real estate scams just doesn’t feel funny to me anymore.
I’m going to be fair here and say what was great. The performances were terrific. Christian Bale does a very believable portrait of an ugly, crappy man. Bradley Cooper’s imitation of Ben Stiller is terrific. Amy Adams little tits really are so cute. Robert DeNiro—the man is so brilliant; he could do his stock portrait of a mobster in his sleep. And my favorite part? DeNiro’s New York accent is 100% actually a New York accent.
Mical Moser lives in Brooklyn