Notionally, it’s a story about the Abscam “sting” operation. In reality, it’s a series of Oscar auditions featuring highly talented actors chewing scenery, in what seems to be a high concept send-up of the late 1970s. The actors’ bits of business (Bale’s comb-over, Cooper’s hair rollers) overwhelm the narrative, so much so that you have to rely on the periodic voice-overs to explain what you’ve just seen. If you’ve ever wondered what exactly a movie director does, this film is an unusual example of what happens without one.
And what’s with all the Oscar nods? Technically, this film is pretty mediocre, with lots of obvious continuity problems in film editing (Amy Adams’ hair style seems to change hourly). Perhaps there’s a hitherto unknown category for most shots of women in skimpy clothing apparently not wearing underwear?
Some of the scenes are very entertaining — Jennifer Lawrence has an unexpected gift for comedy. But none of the characters, even though supposedly based on real people, are even remotely credible.
The title of the movie actually provides a pretty good clue as to what this is. It’s not a film, but a scheme to separate you from your money.