Tuesday, January 7, 2014

FSU-Auburn; Wolf of Wall Street v American Hustle

Watching last night's Florida State game, I thought of another rivalry --American Hustle vs the Wolf of Wall Street. The two films are very similar, both are true stories dealing with con men, both have non-Jewish men playing Jewish lead characters, unfaithful relationships and in the end both men get their supposed just desserts. In the end, like the Florida State game, there is a clear winner, but it is a close one.

Some recent articles have dealt with how faithful these films are to the truth. Names have been changed in both to protect the innocent, well to protect the guilty. I will not read Jordan Belfort's book, the Wolf of Wall Street because I don't want to give him any money. In terms of acting, Leonardo and Christian Bale are both superb. Leo's character is a really bad guy who punches his wife in the final scenes. Christian's character is a con man, but someone who learns his lesson. Leo's character is more mesmerizing on screen, but I found myself rooting for Christian's in spite of myself.

Florida State is flashier than Auburn. There are many similarities between the directors. Ironically, the actor most associate with Wolf's Scorcese, Robert DeNiro, makes a cameo as a gangster in American Hustle. The only difference in style is that Wolf of Wall Street seems much brighter-- the film literally pops off the screen, while American Hustle is deliberately more drab.

Both films depict small time cons and glamorize the con-men as opposed to the ones being conned. Wolf of Wall Street depicts Leo and the Stratton Oakmont gang convincing some schmuck to part with 10,000 dollars. We do not see the patsy onscreen, just the whole office laughing at him and flipping him off. as he gives away his life savings. We do see the desperate men in American Hustle giving Christian the 5,000 to get 50,000 loans. They are also presented as schmucks. Again, the con men look cool and there are people in the audience thinking "I could do that."

When it comes to women, Wolf has many nameless, fleshy strippers as opposed to flesh and blood characters. Leo's character is married to a gorgeous blond Naomi, but he still sleeps with the strippers. One stripper is used in a con, but only as a money mule.

Jordan Belfort's wife Naomi is very sexy, but I can't remember the name of the actress playing her. The role is two notes--sexy and jealous. In American Hustle, the female characters are as potent as the Florida State passing game. Amy Adams plays a woman who started as a stripper, but becomes a con women herself. She is  Jennifer Lawrence should also get an Oscar nomination as the con-man's wife. I am on Team Katniss on this one, J-Law is just amazing.

Both leading characters are portrayed as family men, but Leo's character kidnaps his child and tries to drive away while clearly intoxicated. Any sympathy for the character fades the instant he crashes the car with the child inside. Although he cheats, it's clear that Christian's character loves his son, and stays with his wife to be a father.

As fro the FBI agents, both films have FBI agents who exhibit passing envy of their perps. American Hustle's Bradley Cooper is the flashier part, but he is less sympathetic. Wolf's Kyle Chandler gives a more realistic performance. His best scene is when he rides home alone in the subway. Chandler doesn't say a word, but his performance is off the screen.

In each film, the "hero" gets a slap on the wrist by the authorities. The slap on the wrist for Jordan is so light, it doesn't even upset his tennis swing when he's in prison. I'll save the moralizing to other bloggers, but that did bother me a bit. Christian's character seems to walk away without prison.

Like the FSU game, it is a close one, but as they say in Auburn, War American Hustle.

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