by Rob DiCristino
I’ll be honest with you fine folks: I like a movie that is clearly going through it. You know what I mean: Proper Going Through It. The kind of “It” that feels totemic and monumental, the kind of “It” from which no one comes back the same. We’ve all been there: Messy, stubborn, regretful. Trying on ill-fitting identities. Worshiping indifferent gods. Kicking ourselves for keeping faith when the rest of the world is moving on. It’s painful as all hell in real life, but seeing it on screen can be cathartic. David O. Russell has built his career around movies that are Going Through It (I Heart Huckabees, Silver Linings Playbook), movies in which characters are digging themselves out of one pile of shit and into another. And while some of that is undoubtedly the case of a filmmaker who doth protest too much — Russell’s alleged abuses and assorted misconducts are well documented — it’s also the whimsy of human chaos, the maddening truths we face when we’re backed into a corner and left with no other choice but to grow or die.
That’s not to mention Chris Rock, Mike Myers, Timothy Olyphant, Michael Shannon, Zoe Saldana, Andrea Riseborough, Alessandro Nivola, and the litany of other famous faces here to keep us company while Amsterdam weaves in and out of coherence. Bale’s giving wild-eyed Pacino energy as Berendsen — literally, in this case, as the character’s glass eye tends to go askew — with Washington pinballing off him as yet another measured straight man. Our boys are stretched pretty thin in this fight for American democracy, with Berendsen also struggling to keep his medical practice afloat (he’s in hot water for toying with experimental treatments) and rekindle his dead marriage to Riseborough’s WASPy Beatrice, whose rich parents sent him to war in hopes of getting rid of him. Margot Robbie’s Valerie is a golden age dame of the highest order, but her brassy exuberance is stifled by a cocktail of treatments for her supposed female “hysteria” and the lingering pain of her doomed interracial romance with Woodman.
Amsterdam hits theaters this Friday.