Soundtracking is a regular column that appears on Cineplex.com looking at the music featured in the biggest new releases both in theatre and on home video. Shane McNeil looks at the soundtrack to David O. Russell’s American Hustle.
For a movie that hinges so heavily on sleight of hand and the long con, the music of American Hustle provides a deception of its own.
A stylistic 1970s period piece, David O’Russell’s latest (which hits Blu Ray on Tuesday) dropped one of the more memorable trailers in recent memory prior to its theatrical release, anchoring the film’s standout moments and stylistic boldness with some slick editing and a memorable track.
But here’s the deception: Led Zeppelin’s “Good Times, Bad Times” is a non-factor in the film itself. It’s resurfaced in ads to promote the DVD release and is a ubiquitous part of re-selling one of 2013’s most widely-loved films.
The musical course American Hustle does take is more of a K-Tel, “Sounds of the 70s” approach. More specifically, if you’re under the age of 40, it’s less the music you wanted to find in your parents’ record collection and much more of the music that you probably did.
And it should be rewarded for that.
It would have been easy to load the soundtrack with the music that audiences now want to associate with the 1970s in retrospect to better establish the films cool quotient. Sure, there’s some David Bowie, but O’Russell and musical supervisor Susan Jacobs (who honed her playlist chops on the disco flick 54 and previously soundtracked O’Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook) went for a more populist 70s approach foregoing the likes of Lou Reed and Talking Heads for the smoother, more syrupy sounds of bands like Chicago and Steely Dan.
In fact, the film spends more time looking back from its 1978 setting instead of trying to cast its eyes forward to where style, culture or even music would go in coming years.
The first sounds the audience hears out of the film are the opening horn hits of Duke Ellington’s “Jeep’s Blues” and some of the film’s most memorable scenes reach back for the likes of Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit” – albeit reborn in an Arabic remake courtesy of Mayssa Karaa – as well as an epic sing-along to Tom Jones’ “Delilah”.
So, it’s all the more curious that once the film is available for all to bring home, it’s Zeppelin once more that is anchoring the sales push. Perhaps it’s that they represent the one act that just about everyone, from those old enough to remember the FBI’s ABSCAM operation to the teens just discovering their parents’ record collections for the first time, can get behind.
Regardless, Hustle’s musical output was one of the best of 2013 and warrants another look, even if you’re just going to skip to the credits to build yourself a playlist. I’ll leave you with the Electric Light Orchestra song that would become the film’s true theme, following the likes of Jennifer Lawrence and Amy Adams around awards season nearly every time they walked up to pick up a statue.