When I was a little kid, I didn’t understand how keys worked. All I knew was that mommy or daddy stuck a key into the doorknob, jiggled it a little, and the door magically became openable. I didn’t understand that the turning of the key was what did it, and my brain didn’t have enough information to come up with a valid answer. So I decided that maybe if I put the key in the doorknob and shook it so that it made the same sounds that it did when mommy or daddy did it, the door would probably unlock. I tested this hypothesis, and of course it failed. I bring this up because it’s such a perfect metaphor for what’s wrong with American Hustle. David O. Russell doesn’t know how to make a thoughtful, engaging film. He just knows what one sounds like. American Hustle is him shaking the hell out of that key so that it makes just the right noise, and he gets the exact same result that I did.