Where I Watched It: HBo MAX
English Audio Description Available?: Yes
I’m coming along after most of the critics and what little audience saw this film have already weighed in. Mainly, because this has audio description, and I want to talk about whether or not that is successful, but that becomes hard to talk about when I’m not really sure I know what I just saw, and also, I’m pretty sure that has very little to do with the audio description.
Amsterdam is David O’Russell’s attempt at throwing everything at the wall and seeing what sticks. The director of such previously strong efforts like The Fighter, Three Kings, and The Silver Linings Playbook, has taken to drafting a massive ensemble for a quasi-detective story based in reality that time hops, changes locations, and has the unenviable task of having to follow way too many characters.
Christian Bale, John David Washington, and Margot Robbie lead an ensemble that is as wide as Robert DeNiro to Taylor Swift, with a dash of Mike Myers and Chris Rock, among many others. I’ve heard Bale’s performance requires a lot of physical ticks to fully appreciate, something that didn’t translate into the description. The best we get is that his eyeball keeps getting knocked out. Some people think Washington and Robbie have chemistry, but I found it hard to latch onto any one thing, or concept for too long, because the film was constantly trying to change my opinions or perspective. It never stops moving.
I could compare it to some similar films this year that kitchen sinked their way through the movie, like Judd Apatow’s The bubble, which threw a massive ensemble into a single location and just hoped they’d be funny. Honestly, because of some of the cast, I think that was a funnier film. I still remember Kate McKinnon’s performance, and I still want Wings of Stone to get an Oscar nomination for Best Original Song.
Here, I don’t find anything memorable. However, when you throw this many things around, with this much talent, it’s hard to say that it’s bad either. The truth is, I’m not sure what I just saw, I’m fairly certain it wasn’t terrible, but I’m also not sure it was good. There were parts I liked, parts I didn’t. There were also parts I didn’t understand, or understand why they were in the film. If I gave an award for the most perplexing film of the year, Amsterdam would win.
The audio description does what it can, but this movie is constantly reshaping itself, either by introducing new characters, flashing back in time, changing locations, changing the tone of the film, adding mystery elements to the plot, and so on. It’s hard to really grasp onto the film, but I can’t imagine the insanity of watching this without audio description. I needed all the help I could get. Perhaps, in the long run, maybe we could have benefitted from an understanding of more of what Bale was bringing to his performance, but that’s probably hard to capture anyway.
I am certain that this film is no ones best work. That I am sure of. And I’m also pretty sure it’s no ones worst.
If you really feel like Amsterdam is your thing, and you’ve always wondered what it might be like for someone who isn’t Wes Anderson to attempt a Wes Anderson film, then this might be for you.
Final Grade: C