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FLICKS: American Hustle, The Wolf of Wall Street, Gimme Shelter

Posted on 23 January 2014 by LeslieM

By Dave Montalbano


When I was 16, I watched the Steven Spielberg all-star comedy 1941 twice, awed by the impressive visuals and John Williams musical score. I implored my surrogate grandfather, Ed Herma, to see this movie. His response was something like, “What would John Belushi and his friends know about World War II?” Now that I am member of the Half Century Club, I think about Ed Herma’s words when I watch movies from my personal history, most notably American Hustle and The Wolf of Wall Street.

Both films are dominating the awards’ circuit this season. Both are revisionist history, both contain appropriate soundtracks of forgotten songs and both films are entertaining, if a bit long for their own good.

American Hustle opens with our protagonist (really can’t call him a hero) Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) tending to his comb-over. With government agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper) and girlfriend Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams), Rosenfeld is participating in a sting operation to bring down New Jersey politicians. Eventually, the list of suspects grows bigger and bigger and includes fake Arab sheiks, organized crime lords and members of the 96th session of the United States Congress.

Some of this actually happened” are the opening words of writer/director David O. Russell’s current opus. Russell recruits actors from his previous award-winning features (The Fighter –Adams, Bale, Silver Linings Playbook – Cooper, Lawrence) and creates a refreshing homage to the malaise of the Carter Administration. American Hustle is not about the facts, but contains truthful moments about 1978, from the hairy chested machismo influence of Burt Reynolds to psychological revelations inspired by Dr. Wayne Dyer.

The Wolf of Wall Street feels like the spiritual continuation of American Hustle, only with more in-your-face-decadence directed by Martin Scorsese. We see the rise of Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio), a stock broker who makes a fortune selling penny stocks to naive investors. With each financial success, Belfort descends into spiritual decline so symbolic of the exuberance of the roaring ‘90s.

This film is fascinating, with plenty of debauchery. DiCaprio played a similar role in The Great Gatsby, but, this time, the actor performs slapstick in a scene worthy of Jerry Lewis or Jim Carrey. As one of Belfort’s wives, unknown Margot Robbie shines in an ensemble cast that features Matthew McConaughey, Kyle Chandler and Jonah Hill.

Gimme Shelter opens tomorrow. Vanessa Hudgens portrays a homeless teenager who discovers she’s pregnant. Based on a true story, Hudgens is supported by Brendan Fraser, James Earl Jones and Rosario Dawson, who plays the mother-fromhell.

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