FAULT Focus: Post-LCM, we revisit the men’s fashion from ‘American Hustle’

With a decorated cast of award winners it’s no surprise that American Hustle became a breakout movie of the holiday season. Set in 1978, this crime comedy-drama is filled with laughs, twists, and outstanding performances by all involved.

For those of you who have yet to see it, the film is loosely based on a real story and follows con artist Irving Rosenfeld (played by Christian Bale). He makes his money selling art forgeries and convincing desperate men that he can successfully invest their money, promising he can turn a $5K investment into $50K. Of course, he does nothing but pocket the $5K, chalking it up to investments that just didn’t pan out.

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He falls in love with a woman, Sydney (Amy Adams), who he meets at a party. Even though Irving has a wife, Roselyn (Jennifer Lawrence), and has adopted her son as his own, he and Sydney begin a relationship together. She then starts working with Irving to aid in his cons, but when they try and con an undercover FBI agent (Bradley Cooper), Sydney ends up in jail. In order to grant her immunity, they strike up a deal with the FBI to help them take down other mobsters in the area.

But as their plan grows and more people find out, things go from complicated to chaotic as they try and take down some of the most powerful men in the city.

Aside from the talented cast and epic hairstyles that can only come from a movie based in the 1970s, there are plenty of other reasons that make this film a must-see.

Everyone loves an exciting film based on a true story. It adds a touch of realism to the movie that allows people to connect to it more than an unrealistic tale that, while entertaining, people can’t relate to in the same way. Similar success was had by gangster film Public Enemies, a piece that PictureBox described as “Engrossing, entertaining and deliciously true” in their review. The same can also be said for recent successes like The Wolf of Wall Street, and Dallas Buyers Club.

'American Hustle' costume designer Michael Wilkinson: "With Christian's character, he's projecting himself as a man of the world, someone to be trusted, someone who has exquisite taste in art and financial dealings. So what he does with his clothes is combine stripes and patterns and paisleys and dots, and he combines them in interesting, expressive ways."

American Hustle costume designer Michael Wilkinson: “With Christian’s character, he’s projecting himself as a man of the world, someone to be trusted, someone who has exquisite taste in art and financial dealings. So what he does with his clothes is combine stripes and patterns and paisleys and dots, and he combines them in interesting, expressive ways.”

Additionally, there’s something to be said for the outfits in a period piece. If the female characters’ costumes don’t convince you that the wardrobe department had the ’70s look down, the male characters’ outfits surely will.

Like any good gangster film, costume designers nailed the importance of having the male characters in a well-fit suit. Bale’s might have been a bit tighter and more… unique?… than usual. However, his attire—like that of other gangsters and members of the mafia—matched perfectly with that specific gangster-ish look. They take great pride in their appearance, which is evident during the opening scene when Bale’s character is gluing on his toupee. Also, they’re always making sure that they are the best looking guy in the room by displaying their wealth and status by the clothing they wear.

Don't touch the hair...or the suit - costume designer Michael Wilkinson had all of Christian Bale's velvet suits custom made for the film

‘Don’t touch the hair…or the suit’ – costume designer Michael Wilkinson had all of Christian Bale’s velvet suits custom-made for the film

It’s no surprise that the film was up for dozens of awards based on wardrobe. According to IMDB, the long list includes nominations at the Oscars, BAFTA awards, and the Costume Designers Guild Awards among others.

Whether you enjoy comedies, crime films, or if you’re just in it for the fashion, this movie has a little something for everyone. The incredible talent on the cast list doesn’t hurt either!

Bradley Cooper and Amy Adams' characters gear up for a night out at Studio 54

Bradley Cooper and Amy Adams’ characters gear up for a night out at Studio 54

FAULT Reviews: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

DISCLAIMER: This writer only watched the first Hunger Games film the night before attending the preview screening of the sequel, The Hunger Games: Catching Firehaving missed it in cinemas and somehow dodged the hype . If you have arrived at this review of the sequel uninitiated then watch the first, fantastic, film now.

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The Hunger Games: Catching Fire follows Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) soon after their triumph at the annual death match after which the series is named. The audience had been left in a state of uncertainty – relieved at their joint survival, but also apprehensive at the Capitol’s machinations. But the Games only exist to provide measured hope as a temper for a totalitarian fear; and from a wintry opening scene the regime proceeds to pulverize the former with a heavy-handed enforcement of the latter.

The fact that the two films in this series are, in many ways, fairground mirrors of each other, is reflected in their respective straplines. A direct crossover from the books, the first film’s ‘May the Odds be Ever in Your Favour’ is set against ‘Remember Who the Enemy Is’ in revelatory fashion. The first film establishes background before dwelling extensively on the Games ritual. The sequel, in reflecting on the widening fractures, personal and societal, that threaten to unbalance an unnatural status quo, targets the true enemy in the fictional world of Panem.

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Katniss’ first battle in the arena is seen originally as a heroic fight against the cruel establishment: by taking the actions she does, we are led to believe that hers is a direct fight against the unjust hierarchy of Panem. By contrast, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire gradually unveils the levels of a deeply embedded dystopia, and the increasingly drastic measures it will take to preserve the illusion of a benevolent dictatorship.

Although the Games remain a horror to the characters, the audience begins to question whether the Game itself is any more dangerous than the world of escalating brutality that lies beyond the dome. Katniss’s dream of escape from the system – apparently promised by her victory in the first film – begins to die with the realisation that she can only lose while its authority is accepted; instead she and her allies must reject, and utterly shatter, the rules that confine them.

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When put together, the two films are cleverly constructed – that much is undeniable. The narrative arc of the first film reflects that of the sequel, albeit in an almost horribly inverted fashion. Where the brutal day to day grind of life in District 12 is seen as nightmarish in the first film, here it is almost seen as an escape from the unmentionable horrors of the Games arena. Similarly, where the first film presented the journey to the Capitol as a fleeting flirtation with fame and fortune – albeit one that the protagonists, knowing what was to come, never really bought into – here it is revealed as a descent into horror.

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Elizabeth Banks as Effie is impeccable

Against this grimmer backdrop the audience meets an even bigger supporting cast: all of them walking clichés at heart, but so vivified by the acting behind them that it doesn’t matter. Some have returned to us even better than before. Elizabeth Banks as Effie is impeccable; Woody Harrelson creates depth for mentor figure Haymitch with finesse; and President Snow (Donald Sutherland) becomes ever more disquieting as he steps out from the background. And of course Caesar (Stanley Tucci), Cinna (Lenny Kravitz) and many more once again bring Panem to life.

Foremost among the newcomers is Philip Seymour Hoffman, precise as the manipulative games master Plutarch. Sam Claflin performs well as returning tribute Finnick, and the brief scenes for Johanna (Jena Malone) and peace officer Romulus Thread (Patrick St. Esprit) were a pleasure. Sadly, this film is too crowded to continue singing their praises – and often the few glimpsed promises were just that. On the other hand The Hunger Games: Catching Fire continues to intrigue the audience with longevity and friend/foe guessing games, and this writer got caught out until the last few scenes.

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Philip Seymour Hoffman (right) is precise as the manipulative games master Plutarch

The problem with The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, as the second act in a quadrilogy, is its self awareness. Director Francis Lawrence‘s deconstruction of the dystopia oversteps the mark of what one can achieve in a limited time frame (even though this film is still over 2 hours long). The original introduces the protagonists, the Games and the people at the heart of the insanity; the sequel tries to delve into that and expand on the world of Panem. Where the original has a strong narrative and ends in a satisfying resolution, the sequel is essentially a lengthy set-up for what is to come. Whether intentional or not, the overall mood becomes disjointed.

Although the film brings many of the same positives – among them beautiful visuals, excellent scene building and subtly visceral combat – it also suffers much more seriously from a burgeoning amount of material to cover. Between the drama, tense action and the racing, but sometimes predictable, plot, the audience is overburdened with emotional demands. Lawrence and Hutcherson are great in their roles, but have particularly suffered in this film. Their characters’ personal struggles, and Katniss’s conflict with the all-too-obvious destiny laid out for her, stretch any initial anticipation or interest thin.

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President Snow (Donald Sutherland) becomes ever more disquieting as he steps out from the background

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire has to be judged as part of an ongoing series. Ultimately it is a well made and a thoroughly entertaining watch, but relies on the strength of the original Hunger Games and the promise of more to come. If we had to recommend either of the films as a stand-alone thenwe would likely chose the first. But then, how could you watch either and make a conscious decision not to hunt down the other immediately?

Make no mistake – we’re already looking forward to The Hunger Games part 3.

 

Words by Charles Conway
Edit by Nick Artsruni