American Hustle + The Misfits


Double feature: Swagger, casts that are an embarrassment of riches in terms of star wattage, and characters trying to tap into the power of an American dream enervated by recent history – these are some of the things that “American Hustle” and “The Misfits” have in common.

Both films offer a thrilling (if at times tiring), not un-Altmanesque mix of rambling bagginess and tight focus. Especially “The Misfits,” whose unsettling combination of roominess and compression suggests a carefully arranged diorama set down in a sweeping landscape, or a highly stylized play enacted in an outdoor arena.

Both films spin out the minor theme of wanting to believe in the power and nobility of your opponents – whether wild horses or politicians – needing to uphold their symbolic power in order to justify both the battle and the spoils of victory.

Also: swirling love quadrilaterals, faux-naif (but tack-sharp) women depicted as the root sparks of all desire, operatic histrionics (Freudian in “The Misfits,” Scorsese-ian in “American Hustle”,) and narratives that were partially inspired by true events.

If “American Hustle” wins on soundtrack, “The Misfits” wins on dialogue – and they’re essentially a wash with regard to exceptionally modulated performances, especially by their female leads.

For a marathon: Electrified by the nightclub scene in “American Hustle”? Follow it up with later, more refined disco in “The Last Days of Disco.” Want more romantic con artist hijinks? Go with the incomparably suave “Trouble in Paradise.”

“The Misfits” shares with “Kes” an animal embodiment of human struggle and aspiration, and with “National Lampoon’s Vacation” the crazy unraveling of a road trip gone awry.

(Creative Commons licensed original images courtesy of “kissingtoast” and “Fluffymuppet” at Flickr)

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