American Hustle

If you haven’t yet seen American Hustle but you intend to, either before or after the Academy Awards this coming Sunday, do not read this series of posts — yet. They may well ruin this movie for you. On the other hand, if you have seen it once, or think you’ve seen it, I hope to convince you in these next few blog posts that you never really saw this great film — you can’t have. Only when you already know the whole story, and watch the characters struggle to release themselves from their respective binds — only then can you begin to really appreciate American Hustle, this time for the first time.

The well-regarded film critic Jeffrey Lyons recently rejected American Hustle for “best picture” by declaring that he had long since lost interest in ABSCAM. But that comment fails to realize that although American Hustle is set in the era of the FBI’s famous ABSCAM investigation, it transcends it.

The film raises timeless legal and moral questions; it offers a deeply moving and well motivated love story; it explores the human condition — the conflict between who we are and how we choose to appear — it addresses the legitimate limits of government power, intrusions on privacy, entrapment, and so much more. Tragic in spots, hysterically funny in others, brilliantly acted, directed, and written, this deeply truthful and yet fanciful love story contains a classic “Hollywood Ending” reminiscent of an earlier era.

Lines from the movie merit repeating, themes from the film merit considering and discussing, characters merit recalling, scenes merit analyzing, and questions merit discussing. Future blog posts shall do this. But for now, I post this, especially for those film fans who want to watch the Oscars prepared to root for the best.