So Pseudoplotinus (aka not THAT Michael Davis) deftly sums up the long and intricately detailed film American Hustle: “Just saw American Hustle. Great, entertaining movie but ultimately not serious about the ethical realities of its story. In the end were supposed to sympathize with the crooks and corrupt politicians and against the overreaching FBI who instigated Abscam. Sigh.”
But it’s even worse: The ambition of public employees brings down basically admirable elected public servants taking customary short-cuts required to improve the lives of the people who elected them. Meanwhile, the actual MAFIA guys—who are murderous evildoers—get away unscathed.
I also thought that the film was pretty hard to follow, because the characters didn’t always stay in character. But still: It’s hard to diss a movie that displays so much of what’s undeniably good about Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence—two attractive and fascinating characters. And Louis C.K. plays with many subtle touches the unflashy, long-suffering, and, it turns out, very competent civil servant. He’s the film’s only non-hustler, and he richly deserves his vindication. Quite the unlikely hero. Overall, very good but not great—and certainly not particularly deep. Louis C.K. will certainly make my list of 2013’s top performers.
I also saw Saving Mr. Banks. I pretty much had to be dragged to a movie advertised as about the making of Mary Poppins—a film I was never young enough to enjoy. But: There are genuinely great performances by Emma Thompson, Tom Hanks, Colin Ferrell, and Paul Giamatti. This movie might be dissed as shamelessly sentimental psychobabble with a tenuous connection to reality. But: It can be praised as displaying what’s best about Walt Disney, who was in his way a great American man and a lot more than a hustler. So let’s say this movie is about a woman whose life was shaped by love of her father; the making of the film Mary Poppins (as well as the writing of the book) is about her coming to terms with the truth about personal love and death and all that. Mr. Banks (the Poppins character based on the author’s father) gets saved. The original Disney vision really did privilege sentimental familial love.
We can even say this film is about what was really good about American popular art in that time before the Sixties (that does not include the annoying songs of Mary Poppins). I recommend it to children of all ages. Certainly it’s one of the very few films made lately from which kids can learn while having the longings which really do and should shape their lives respected. The performers should certainly win lots of awards.