It’s nearly impossible to talk about American Hustle without addressing the influence of Martin Scorsese. In Owen Gleiberman’s review he wrote: “It’s as if the Scorsese of Goodfellas had been revived, full-throttle, only with a new subject: the hucksterism hiding in the shadows of middle-class America.” The themes, the multiple narrators and the golden oldies soundtrack make the nods impossible to ignore.
But Scorsese is not the only iconic director that David O. Russell pays homage to in his latest pic. It seems as though Russell may have borrowed from Charlie Chaplin as well.
In Hustle, Christian Bale’s Bronx-born character Irving Rosenfeld recounts his childhood in voiceover. His father ran a glass repair shop and he, a little schemer and hustler in training, was tasked with making sure that the windows in town were always in need of repair. So little Irv ran around, smashing them with rocks.
This is nearly identical to a bit in Chaplin’s first feature-length film The Kid. The 1921 silent pic tells the story of Chaplin’s Little Tramp and the baby he adopts when he discovers it on the side of the street. When the kid (played by Jackie Coogan) grows up a bit, he trains him to become his parter in crime. Their gig? The kid breaks the windows in town, and the Tramp repairs them.
Of course both Hustle and The Kid diverge after this point, but, it still appears to be more than just a coincidence. It’s a nod, or maybe a wink. After all, who embodies the striver on film better than the Tramp? He fancies himself a gentleman and someone who does what’s necessary to survive. Irv, it seems, is cut from the same cloth, even though he might be ever so slightly more stylish.
The Kid is available to stream in full on Hulu and American Hustle is currently playing in theaters nationwide.