*** (out of five)
What do you call the genre that encompasses American Hustle, The Wolf of Wall Street and Blow? I suppose you could go with “Rags To Riches” or even, more accurately and more often, “Rags to Riches to Rags”. But there’s a certain style and tone to these movies that links them besides their celebration / evisceration of the American Dream, and that tone is cribbed from Scorsese, making Wolf of Wall Street the natural leader of the pack, even if American Hustle may be more disciplined.
The other feature, I think, that audiences respond to is period. These wide-screen, semi-epic adventures tend to be set in the ‘70s, ‘80s and early ‘90s – sometimes all three. The production design – especially hair and make-up – is part of the fun.
Matthew McConaughey’s make-up and hairstylists went all out for Gold, Stephen Gagan’s change-the-names-for-legal-reasons adaptation of the true story of the Bre-X gold scandal, one of Canada’s great business stories. Gagan resets the tale to Reno but many of the true story’s outlandish details are there on screen, and they make for some excellent twists and turns.
McConaughey, fifty or so pounds overweight with a receding hairline and generally looking awful, delivers yet another earnest, endlessly entertaining, energetic and engaging performance, albeit one with too much mumbling (I think I lost a third of his lines). The storytelling is flabby too, but the many supporting actors are excellent, the design fine, and the source material absolutely deserving the movie. This could have been a great film; it’s a good enough one.