Monday, December 30, 2013

American Hustle - A Movie Review

'American Hustle' is a comedy-drama that is light-hearted while dealing with a heavy subject of an FBI investigation. Unlike Argo, this movie does not adopt the seriousness of the actual event - Abscam, the investigation that shook the US Congress in late '70s. The movie pivots on Irving and Sidney (amazingly played by Christian Bale and Amy Adams) who are con artists with a zest for life.But they have a problem - Irving's wife ,Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence) who is sometimes an air-headed housewife and other times an alcoholic.Sidney adopts a false identity with a British accent - Edith Greensly and increases Irving's business until she is caught by an FBI agent, "Richie" DiMaso (Bradley Cooper). Richie releases her on the condition that they participate in a 'sting' operation in a corruption investigation.

Thus begins the roller-coaster ride - of greed, of deception, of women's power play over men and of insecurities. Amy Adams towers tall over Jennifer Lawrence playing the role of her career - sometimes seductive, other times frightened, as Sidney she simmers and seduces both the men - Irving and Richie.Switching easily between British and American accents, her character adds depth where it could easily have been one-dimensional.

Jennifer Lawrence, as Rosalyn, is a wild card.A loud paranoid,alcoholic,who happens to talk her mouth out. The scene where she asks the Mayor of Camden and her husband to smell her nails to see why she likes the smell 'so sweet yet rotten' captures her character. She speaks what is on her mind and is candid to admit that 'she does not like change'.

The rest of the story is how friendship evolves between Irving and Carmine, the Mayor of Camden, while Richie plots how to nab Carmine for corruption.

It was fun to see all those '70s styles-  Sidney with her hair in rollers at home, Rosalyn with those loose,bouncy curls and even Richie sporting several tiny rollers.

I like this movie way better than Silver Linings Playbook (directed by the same person,David O. Russell). It has style, glitz and glamor but beneath it all it has heart-warming depth of characters. The one note of caution I must mention is that it would have made Hitchcock, who said "The length of a film should be directly related to the endurance of the human bladder.”, a very unhappy man. Over 2 hours, it calls for a better editing job. 

Saturday, December 28, 2013

The way you fear a cow sitting down in the middle of the street during rush hour,that's how I fear Canadians - Bernedette in Where'd You Go,Bernadette

'Where'd You Go,Bernadette' smells like fresh flowers in spring. This delightful novel is gleefully funny with sprinkles of warmth and intelligence thrown in good measure. 
Bernadette Fox, the protagonist, seems to be anti-social - she hates Seattle, does not want to socialize with neighbors or other mothers at the PTA and says 'I don't know if community is something you do or don't believe in'. But do not be fooled by this, behind this facade is an intelligent woman who was once the most successful architect of LA.

The other important character is Bee,her fourteen year old daughter. Bee is an eighth grader who is an accomplished flutist, a mentor for younger students and a straight-As student.Most of the book is seen through Bee's eyes and is a collection of email correspondence, letters and even an emergency hospital bill!

Elgin, Bernadette's husband,  works on a high-profile secret project(yes, pop-corn popping 'Samantha') at Microsoft and is the 4th most watched person on TED talk.However there is a gulf widening between Elgin and Bernadette which culminates in the disappearance of her. The rest of the story is about Bee investigating her mother's disappearance.

Some funny quotes from the book:

Seattle - "whoever laid this city never met a four-way intersection they didn't turn into a five-way intersection' they never met a beautiful view they didn't block with a twenty-story old folks home with zero architectural integrity. that's the first time the words 'architectural' and 'integrity' have ever been used together in a discussion of Seattle'.I've never seen a city  so overrun with runaways, drug addicts and bums"

In a letter, Bernadette explains her current state "If you were wondering what I've been doing for the last twenty years, I've been resolving the conflict between public and private space in the single-family residence."

“What’s Microsoft’s mission anyway” I asked, wolfing down a piece of Costco birthday cake. It was Costco day on campus, and they were signing people up for discounted membership, using free sheet cake as enticement. No wonder I get confused and sometimes mistake the place for Utopia. 

“That's right,' she told the girls. 'You are bored. And I'm going to let you in on a little secret about life. You think it's boring now? Well, it only gets more boring. The sooner you learn it's on you to make life interesting, the better off you'll be.”

I highly recommend this book as for fun, humor, maybe a little about parenting, relationships and all things in between! So if want a little philosophy and lot of entertainment, Go grab it at your nearest library.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Blue Jasmine - A movie review

For those of you who came in late, Blue Jasmine is a contemporary 'A Streetcar Named Desire'!

Like Blanche DuBois, Jasmine is a fading, but still-attractive woman who has lost everything in life and seeks solace in her sister's home in San Francisco. Like Blanche, she is an alcoholic and a nervous-wreck and like Blanche, Jasmine is delusional and refuses to accept the reality of life.But unlike Blanche, Jasmine's past was luxurious and extravagant , hosting lavish parties where New York city's socialites rubbed shoulders.

The movie pivots on Cate Blanchett.Sometimes a suave high-society and other times a nervous wreck surviving on Xanax, Cate plays the part as beautifully as Viven Leigh in 'A Streetcar..'.
We are mesmerized by this Berkin bag carrying woman whose past in the upper echelons of society she cannot let go. Her sister Ginger is portrayed with sincerity by Sally Hawkins. Affectionate but timid, Ginger tolerates Jasmine's hysteria. Whether commanding her boys to keep it down or asking her boyfriend to leave so that Jasmine can concentrate on her computer course, Ginger is supportive of Jasmine.But, Jasmine is ashamed and embarassed of Ginger's dull and mundane working-class life.

You want to hate this woman whose big dreams of going back to a rich life are meaningless especially since she has no education or basic computer knowledge. But you only end up feeling pity for her mental unbalance and histrionics.

There is a scene where Jasmine describes working in a shoe store serving the same women she had entertained with grand parties. This scene is created so well with a narrative that one can't help but applaud the greatness of Woody Allen, the director.
Do not expect to be entertained with the typical Woody-esque jokes, instead it is an intense drama not seen since Crimes and Misdemenours.