American Hustle And The ’70s

This afternoon Kish and I went to see American Hustle. It’s a clever, interesting, highly entertaining movie that features terrific performances by Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams, Jennifer Lawrence, and Robert DeNiro, among many others.

Of course, one of the biggest stars of the movies gets no credit whatsoever. It’s the decade of the ’70s, of course. The movie screams out the ’70s, from the embarrassing hairstyles to the embarrassing clothing to the over-the-top decor of Irving and Rosalyn Rosenfeld’s suburban home. It’s a world of dancing and three-piece suits, gold chains, hairy chests, and skin, cocaine snorts and glitz, where bras apparently weren’t worn and a pop music soundtrack played all day and all night long.

I’m not sure that the movie got all of the lingo and looks exactly right — at the end of the film, for example, one character says “my boss knows you did him a solid,” which I don’t remember as a phrase that was used back then — but it’s clear that a lot of the fun of the movie came from that temporal setting that seems so absurd to us now.

The American understanding of the ’70s seems so fixed that I think it is likely that the decade will always be a popular setting for movies. Just as writers of thrillers and historical fiction can’t resist dipping into the Nazi story, so movie producers and writers will always have a tender spot for the era of leisure suits, elaborate coiffures, and disco.