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Best Picture Breakdown: American Hustle

Best Picture Breakdown: American Hustle
Movie Minute

POSTED: Sunday, March 2, 2014 - 11:00am

UPDATED: Sunday, March 2, 2014 - 11:14am

        It's award season in Hollywood and one of the most sought after awards is an Oscar. This year several deserving figures have received nominations. From Leonardo DiCaprio's nomination for Best Actor, to the team of Gravity receiving a nomination for their achievement in visual effects. While these nominations are great, none are more coveted than that of Best Picture. Just a few years ago the Best Picture category increase from 5 nominations to 10, but was soon changed to where each year up to 10 films can receive a nomination. This year 9 films made the cut; American Hustle, Captain Phillips, Dallas Buyers Club, Gravity, Her, Nebraska, Philomena, 12 Years A Slave, The Wolf Of Wall Street.


Director David O. Russell follows up his 2012 hit dramedy Silver Linings Playbook, with another star-studded film. American Hustle is the story of a con artist and his assistant who are forced to help the FBI catch corrupt politicians and mafia members. It is loosely based on the true FBI operations during the late 1970s into the early 80s.

For this film, Russell called upon the talents of Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence. This film has received praise from critics and is up for a total of 10 Oscars, including Best Picture. Is the film worthy of the nomination though?

Out of the nine films that have received Best Picture nominations, “American Hustle,” is by far the messiest when it comes to structure. It starts off strong, but quickly loses its way as it over-complicates the plot.

The film begins with a flash-forward of the three main characters in the process of making a deal with one of the many politicians on their list. In this scene the audience gets a sense of who the characters are, as well as what the tone of the movie will be.

The movie then jumps back and explains everything that has led up to that point; this is where the film’s problems arise. We get the backstory of how Bale and Adam’s characters met, and how they transitioned from conning shady businessmen into helping the FBI trap politicians. Instead of focusing on one particular character however, the film swaps narrators which contributes to the jumbled mess of explaining what exactly is going on.

There’s nothing wrong with this technique, but the way it was used in “American Hustle” just didn’t fit. It tried to progress the story through different angles, which over-complicated an already hard to follow story. It was so over-done that it took away from the big finale.

Despite “American Hustle’s” stumbles, it had several things that worked.

The one that stands out is the cast that Russell was able to assemble.

The chemistry they have throughout the film creates a very charming and exciting environment.

You may not know what’s going on half the time, but the interactions and mannerisms of the performances make up for it.

“American Hustle” is a good period piece and a good film, but it doesn’t live up to the high expectations the Best Picture category holds.

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