(Directed by David O. Russell) (2022)
The judgment of eminent film critic David Stratton is, we suspect, affected by seeing everything. TVC perhaps suffers from the reverse circumstance: we don’t see very many films, because life is too short. We do try to guard against the impulse to stick to films we’ve already seen, and remind ourselves that it was ever the case that 90% of films made are rubbish. It is just that now the rubbish is even more nauseating in its freighted agitprop, the production quotas and standards that would make the Hays Office blanch (in a different way), and the tendency to infantilism.
David published his “Top Movies of 2022” list in “The Weekend Australian” (31/12/22):
The Banshees of Inisherin
Decision to Leave
Good Luck to You, Leo Grande
Quo Vadis Aida (sic)
Three Thousand Years of Longing
We have seen 4 of the above, and would only agree that Quo Vadis, Aida? belongs on a best list. Belfast is wafer-thin fare smothered with a lavish dripping of indulgent, nostalgic povo-porn (the kind of thing we fear Spielberg is trying, on an upper-mittel-class level, with The Fabelmans). Parallel Mothers is a typical ho-hum piece from Pedro Almodóvar – it was lionized at Venice, which is always a ‘tell’.
Which brings us to Amsterdam.
Stratton says: “…for my money…the most underrated film of the year. I enjoyed this richly textured movie so much that I saw it twice over the space of a few days*. With its Hitchcockian blend of humour and suspense, and boasting an unusually fine cast – Christian Bale, Margot Robbie, John David Washington, Rami Malek, Anya Taylor-Joy plus Robert de (sic) Niro at his best, this has an intriguing plot inspired by real events – the fascist movement in pre-World War II America.” [* Perhaps he watched it the 2nd time to try to make sense of it.]
We can imagine the Amsterdam Pitch…
“What’s the peg?”
“Now you’re talking!”
“Yeah but I’m making it a period allegory, see? Instead of the 1/6/21 insurrection infamy. So we focus on the so-called Business Plot of the 1930s, when rich white supremacists tried to take over government from FDR in a RWNJ coup. It takes a shot at the wrong side of Wall Street (not Democrat donors), Trump, Peter Thiel, Trump, the Tea Party, Trump, MAGA, Republicans, Elon Musk, and Trump. It’s got razy lacisim, gender outlaws, reparations, white-supremacy eugenics, a war romance, speeches about threats to democracy, murder mystery…”
“Murder? Is this an action thriller? I thought you said comedy.”
“It’s ALL THREE…plus so much more! and we’ve got Christian Bale signed. He’s always wanted to parody Woody Allen; well, Woody melded with Al Pacino.”
We’ll spare you the full synopsis: let’s just record that Amsterdam is a witless, chaotic, heavy-handed, impenetrable omnishambles, studded with woke trash (and worthless cameos, by dozens of celebs, such as Taylor Swift). It doesn’t even succeed as a period piece: the whole mélange being drenched in fake sepia and House-of-Eliot-style fabrication. The music jars, much like those skits where they set Kamala Harris speeches to bongos. The script is unintelligible. The plot has been carelessly confected, ideas good and bad thrown into the Cuisinart. The attitudes and exchanges are painfully anachronistic. Imagine black boys saying this stuff, c.1933!
The performances are decidedly patchy: Margot Robbie and John David Washington, as the lovers, adopt long, fixed, vacant stares at each other, and at everyone else. Many of the supporting players spend time standing and staring also, as if awaiting direction. As do even the Brownshirts (yes, that’s right, Brownshirts). Bob De Niro does what he does best these days: appears. To sledgehammer home the Adam Schiff-approved script, Anya Taylor-Joy plays a bug-eyed cross between Eva Braun and Melania Trump, and Rami Malek seems to channel Rudi Giuliani. Chris Rock provides a screaming chorus. Many actors seem to have been cast based on their epidermis, or ability to provide declamatory exposition. Christian Bale, however, has clearly been cast to help us decide if this is the worst turn of his we’ve seen. His ludicrous, dopey, eye-rolling** performance is down there with his work in Vice, American Hustle and, of course, that monumental atrocity, Knight of Cups.
Amsterdam makes the top ten list. We agree with Mr. Stratton about that. Where we depart from him is in identifying the appropriate list. Worst Films of the Year is our choice for this farrago, made by alleged professionals. The cinema-going public seems to agree, based on theatre receipts: projected losses are said to be $97m. Go Woke, go Broke.[** unfortunate, since the character is meant to have one glass eye.]