Life in sham­bles

With amer­i­canhus­tle, david O. rus­sell closes a chap­ter.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - OSCAR SPECIAL - By Steven Zeitchik

Film trilo­gies these days tend to be epic, Hob­bit- like af­fairs, the mythol­ogy of one film quite lit­er­ally picked up and fur­thered in the next, and of­ten in a world not ex­actly re­sem­bling our own.

But trilo­gies also some­times come in more sub­tle flavours, as in the case of David O. Rus­sell’s new film Amer­i­can Hus­tle. Af­ter mak­ing just one film over a span of 11 years, Rus­sell has now made three films in the last 36 months, start­ing with the box­ing drama The Fighter in 2010 and con­tin­u­ing with the men­tal-health dram­edy Sil­ver Lin­ings Play­book in 2012.

Per­haps be­cause they were all made dur­ing such a short pe­riod, these films form a co­he­sive whole, play­ing on the same themes of sur­vival, re­demp­tion and rein­ven­tion – and, more specif­i­cally, ask­ing what makes some­one fi­nally de­cide to make a change af­ter years of un­healthy rou­tine.

in The Fighter, mark Wahlberg’s micky Ward has been squeezed for much of his adult life by his dom­i­neer­ing mother and his needy brother; it takes some new people and events for him to seize con­trol and start liv­ing up to his box­ing po­ten­tial.

in Sil­ver Lin­ings, Pat Soli­tano (Bradley Cooper) has a sim­i­lar prob­lem – cop­ing with bipo­lar dis­or­der for much of his life. He can’t seem to get out of his own way, let alone out from un­der the thumb of his dys­func­tional par­ents. it takes some spe­cific el­e­ments – namely, the spe­cific Jennifer lawrence – to mo­ti­vate some change.

And in Hus­tle, Bale’s con­man irv Rosen­feld be­lieves he’s tak­ing con­trol of his life by be­com­ing a huck­ster and avoid­ing the fate of his pushover fa­ther. Over the course of the film, a se­ries of schemes gone wrong and other de­vel­op­ments con­vince him, af­ter years of com­fort­able con­ning, to take con­trol of life in a dif­fer­ent way.

All of this is no ac­ci­dent. Rus­sell, as Cooper told The Times, “wears his heart on his sleeve,” has been ea­ger to put his own story into these movies. And his own story is sim­i­larly one in which he needed a pre­cip­i­tat­ing fac­tor to force change.

As Rus­sell told The Times in an in­ter­view: “Each one of the people in these movies be­gins in a place where their lives are in sham­bles. They don’t know if they want to be who they are or if they want to live as they are. And that’s how i felt back be­fore these movies.”

Af­ter suf­fer­ing through a di­vorce, in­de­ci­sion, anger and a gen­eral lack of di­rec­tion, par­tic­u­larly around the pro­duc­tion of 2004’s I Heart Huck­abees, he had lost his way.

it took dis­cov­er­ing and then adapt­ing a novel by matthew Quick called Sil­ver Lin­ings Play­book, which res­onated with him be­cause of his own bipo­lar-af­flicted son, for him to get on a new road.

much of the fun of the three movies – and like any good tril­ogy, they are bet­ter ap­pre­ci­ated when watched in suc­ces­sion, their con­nec­tive tis­sue made more ap­par­ent – in­volves the all-in hu­mour Rus­sell is known for, from the dance scene con­clud­ing Sil­ver Lin­ings to the sis­terly hair-pull fight in The Fighter, and now, the spir­ited squab­bling among Rosen­feld, his girl­friend and an FBi agent.

The trio of films also mix and match cast in in­ter­est­ing ways. in Fighter, Bale is the drag on the hero; in Amer­i­can Hus­tle, he’s be­ing dragged. Bradley Cooper re­verses the tra­jec­tory. in his first Rus­sell film, he’s the one try­ing to break out, while in Hus­tle, he’s the im­ped­i­ment in many ways to the evo­lu­tion of the cen­tral char­ac­ter.

Amy Adams and lawrence, who serve as key cast mem­bers in Hus­tle also clev­erly play off roles from their pre­vi­ous movies. Adams again is the strong-willed girl­friend mo­ti­va­tor, while lawrence is the quirky, un­lucky-inlove big per­son­al­ity.

The re­sult is an even greater feel­ing that all of these films are of a piece, as though for all the speci­ficity of their sto­ries, char­ac­ters and ac­tors are in­ter­change­able.

Think of it as one epic movie in three chap­ters, with dif­fer­ent ac­tors play­ing dif­fer­ent roles depend­ing on which chap­ter you hap­pen to find yourself.

Rus­sell, who is nom­i­nated for Best Di­rec­tor at this year’s Os­cars for Hus­tle, hasn’t de­cided what his next movie might be. He has a Kennedy as­sas­si­na­tion film in de­vel­op­ment that could well fit the bill. That would seem to take him in a new the­matic di­rec­tion.

Then again, as we know from Hol­ly­wood tent­poles, trilo­gies can of­ten morph into fourquels. – los Angeles Times/mcClatchyTri­bune in­for­ma­tion Ser­vices

Amer­i­can Hus­tle opens in selected cin­e­mas to­day.

take five: david O. rus­sell takes a break in be­tween shoots (with Jennifer Lawrence) on the set of amer­i­canhus­tle.

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