January 25, 2014

"You're nothing to me until you're everything."
I don't wanna use the word "ambitious" for this movie, simply "bedazzling". Why? First, it's directed by David O. Russell. Remember that guy? Yes, the guy who brought you The Fighter and Silver Lining Playbook; Oscar cliché. Up, the expectation was, to 50%. Second, its line of actors. Elevated, the expectation was, to 75%. Third, came the word "Some of this actually happened." in the very first frame (well, that didn't elevate my expectation, simply others' mouth-to-mouth promotion, especially for those who somehow worshipped based-on-real-event work, even for the slightest one, and yes, the events were based on FBI's real-life ABSCAM operation in the late 70's). Last, but not least, came the 10 Academy Awards' Nominations for Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role, Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role, Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role, Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role, Best Achievement in Costume Design, Best Achievement in Directing, Best Achievement in Film Editing, Best Achievement in Production Design, and Best Writing, Original Screenplay. Oh my .. up to 95%. So, how was it?

Took place in 70's America, a con artist named Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) was doing a fine job operating shady schemes like selling fake paintings and offering empty loans, especially after he found Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams), a former stripper from New Mexico, at a friend's pool party, whom he quickly found brilliant and soon to be titled his partner .. and lover. Together, he and Sydney, who then called herself Lady Edith Greensley with Europe banking connections, sought for people who were short in money and were desperate for a loan and were willing to invest 5 grand with a larger return promised in hand. Unfortunately, an ambitious FBI Agent named Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper) sniffed their operation. In order to escape the law, DiMaso offered them a choice of which they were very good at; doing a bribery to take down corrupt New Jersey politicians, one of which was Mayor Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner). As Irving agreed to cooperate, together he worked side-by-side with DiMaso and his boss Stoddard Thorsen (Louis C.K.), involving fake Abu Dhabi Sheik (Michael Peña) and real Miami mobsters, while on the other hand still had struggles with his much-younger wife Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence) whom he wed when she was a struggling single mother and whose son he adopted.

I like the approach in this movie; it explored more to the character rather than covering a world-building and structured twisty plot. Eric Warren Singer's script was simply brilliant; it was emotional, full of laugh, despicable, or three of them at the same time. The 135 minutes running time, though felt slightly overlong, still managed to keep the narrative and pace steady, not draggy and drowsy. The feel of the 70's was thick coming from the costumes (thanks to Michael Wilkinson) and the music. The cinematography was sharp, keeping it wide and steady, rather than moving and zooming around, more to backing up the whole focus-on-characters aspect it had. Praise also to Jay Cassidy, Crispin Struthers, and Alan Baumgarten, who magically turned Russell's raw direction into beautiful 3-act narrative without being jumpy and confusing. My only problem here was the predictability aspect; I loved how they built the climax but then they deflated it down, just like that. It was like the complexity all along just gone within a blink of an eye.

Solid acts was what this movie shone with. Bale gained 40 pounds just for his role as Irving, portraying what we could call complexity within vulnerability and depiction, and some bald hair. Adams, despite never having to go to Victoria Secret's chain stores, was confident and smart, and that physical beauty. Cooper, the sexiest man alive with a curl, was whimsical, determined, full of energy yet very doubtful in his own way. Renner was sincere, polite yet very sneaky; I love how he behaved in certain ways, very careful, the articulation, oh God it was highly intriguing. But, there was one person who really shone throughout the entire scenes and it was Jennifer Lawrence. She looked like a hell of a train-wreck with hideous hairstyle and odd obssession with top coat. On the other hand, she looked very vulnerable, caged, screaming for an identity, for compassion, for love. She was PERFECT.

Finally said, this movie was THAT close to perfection, but blame the lack of complexity, I gave it minus 1 star to perfection. But it's highly recommended. A MUST-WATCH.

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