Interpersonal Communication in American Hustle. Gregory Lapointe CMS 330
The Plot This movie centers around Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) and Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) who are two con artists. Their relationship blossoms, but Irving is hesitant of leaving his wife Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence) for the fear of losing his son Danny. While working on their loan scam act Sydney and Irving are busted by a low level FBI agent trying to make his mark in the Bureau Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper). DiMaso offers to release the two of them is they help him make four additional arrests. Soon after Dimaso realizes how big of a bust he could possibly make, by catch corrupt politicians. He plans to set up New Jersey Mayor Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner), by using a Arab Sheik to front money for the rebuilding of Atlantic City.
Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) In American Hustle every character has their own ways of listening. For the movies main character, Irving Rosenfeld he has more of a content-oriented listening style. He listens to what the person he is talking to is saying and bases what he will say next off of that. He is a con man to his roots, and the way he listens reflects that. Every con he pulls he knows what to say next because of what the other person talking is saying to him.
Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) Sydney Prosser is Irving’s girlfriend and second hand women for all his cons. She has learned a lot from Irving about how to con someone. Her listening styles are kind of a mix because she has two personalities, herself as Sydney and the person she pretends to be when she is conning someone Lady Edith Greensly. Her listening styles mix from People-oriented to Action-oriented. When she is Edith she is more People-oriented, conning someone to believe she cares about every detail of that persons life. As Sydney she is much more action-oriented, wanting everything to be in line and ready for when the next job is at hand.
Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper) Richie DiMaso is the FBI agent that busted Irving and Sydney’s con operation. He then makes a deal to let them go free if they will help him make four more arrests. Richie wants to make his name in the FBI so when he sees a chance to go bigger he does. Richie’s would best be classified as a textbook case of Time-oriented listening. He is constantly wanted to jump to the next thing, and believes he knows the end of everything someone is going to say before they say it. The best example would be how his boss, Stoddard Thorsen keeps trying to tell him a story from his childhood that reflect why Richie needs to not try to make a huge splash all at once. Every time the story comes up Richie cuts him off thinking he knows the meaning of the story. Each time he is wrong and he ends up walking away before Thorsen tells him the end.
Rosalyn Rosenfeld (Jennifer Lawrence) Rosalyn Rosenfeld is the wife of Irving. She Struggles with the fact that her son Danny is the only reason Irving stays with her. She is unpredictable and unstable, but for some reason that draws Irving to her every time. As for Rosalyn’s listening technique she is a mix as well. I felt while watching she feels like her is people-oriented, she tries to use the books and articles she reads to help her understand more and she does say she has a gift for reading people, but deep down she is somewhat time-oriented. She isn’t as bad a Richie but she has her moments when she rushes through what people are talking about or continues talking over people but still hears what they are saying.
Self Perception Everyone in this film has a self perception that they want to keep up. They all want people to see them a certain way, or want to influence someone to do something. With Irving he has an extreme combover that he is constantly having to keep up, but he has this so people wont look at him any different. Richie curls his hair, which was the style of the time. He does this so he will be noticed just like he wants to be noticed by the FBI. Sydney comes up with an alter ego (Lady Edith) to influence people to fall for the con, which even Richie does. As for Rosalyn her self perception can be seen in the nail polish she is talking about. “It's like that perfume that you love, that you can't stop smelling even when there's something sour in it. Can't get enough of it.” Which sums up the character of Rosalyn perfectly.
Communicating in the Work Place The communication in the work place is very informal and unnatural, I would say this is the one thing in the film that didn’t seem realistic. Richie’s boss Thorsen is kind of a push over but will not budge for what Richie wants to do with busting politicians. Richie cuts off his boss while he is talking quite a lot. Richie also always thinks he knows what everyone is going to say, including his boss. One scene that stood out was that Richie goes against what his boss says and transfers 2 million dollars to a bank account to run his con. Thorsen boss calls him and congratulates him for such a great idea, even though he had nothing to do with it.
Uncertainty Reduction Theory There is one scene that really shows the uncertainty reduction theory perfectly. When Richie first works with Irving and Sydney to bust another four people Irving goes to a friend of his who lines up people to get conned. Even though Irving knows for sure that this man can line up four people to buy fake art he asks him twice so he can get him on tape saying it so their isn’t any uncertainty. A couple of moments later Richie comes in and the guy tells him they could go for a much bigger con with politicians and it catches Richie’s attention. They talk for a moment and Richie turns to Irving asking if he heard him even though he is standing right next to them and can clearly hear them.
Implicit Personality Theory When Irving and Sydney first meet Irving notices a charm on Sydney’s bracelet and uses assume similarity to form a connection with her. The charm is something related to Duke Ellington and a conversation begins between the two of them. She states that “He saved her life more then once”, and Irving says “Me too.” They both say the song Jeep’s Blues was the one that did and then they go off together to listen to the song. From that song alone their relationship was formed.
Managing Conflict The second scene in the movie really shows how the conflict in this movie is managed, and there is a lot of it in the movie. Irving has to deal with the fact that he is not in complete control of a con for the first time since he started doing this. Richie is in charge but his head is to big and sometimes will go a bit to far and make a mistake. In this scene Irving and Richie are having a small argument that leads to Richie messing up Irving’s combover which took the first couple minutes of the movie to get right. You can see the frustration build in Irving’s eyes when Sydney steps in to manage the conflict. She tells Richie to stop being stubborn while fixing Irving’s hair and telling him to stop taking everything personally. This is an example of compromise.
Interpersonal Influence This movie is laced with Interpersonal Power. Irving has a way of influencing everyone around him to do what he think needs to happen. One of the first examples of this is when Carmine Polito (who they are trying to bust) walks out of the room because he thinks the deal is “shaky”. Irving has to go get him and influence him to go and take the deal, which he does by showing that he relates to Polito and because he has the knowledge so Polito with trust him. Irving is also influencal towards Richie because unlike Richie, Irving is a con man and knows what actually needs to happen to make one of these deals go down.
Evaluation First off I wanted to say that this is one of the best movies for this project and I would completely agree with anyone that says this is one of the best movies of the decade. The communication in this film, while the content is a little more extreme then my daily struggles, is very accurate in it portrayal. Everything seems so seamless and real, While putting it under the microscope for this project I was really blown away by that aspect. This movie is a dialogue heavy movie, there is little to no action, but the dialogue really hooks you from the first scene. In comparison to my own life, like I said; I have never been apart of an FBI bust. Yet after seeing this movie I feel like it wouldn’t be too far off.
Sources Verderber, Kathleen S., and Rudolph F Verderber. Inter-Act: Interpersonal Communication Concepts, Skills, and Contexts. New York: Oxford University Press. 2013. Print American Hustle. Dir. David O. Russell. Perf. Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Jeremy Ranner. 2014. DVD. Google Images