The 'American Hustle' Beauty Blunder That's Been Bugging Me Since I Saw It

Everyone's talking about the retro beauty looks, but no one has called out the goof that happens only a minute into the film!
Publish date:
January 9, 2014
hairsprays, cult favorites, movies, loreal, American Hustle

I saw American Hustle a few weeks ago, and I
thoroughly enjoyed it. Was it the best film of 2013? I have no idea; it’s the
only movie I saw last year because I’m weird. If I were to
average in other people’s opinions of it and consider what movie-going types
are saying about other films, it probably wasn't.

However--and you know
this if you get the xoVain newsletter--I was ready to declare it THE BEAUTY
MOVIE OF THE YEAR. Was ready. WAS. But now, I'm reconsidering.

Every beauty blogger and
her has written about Jennifer Lawrence’s fluffy updo, Amy
Adams’s disco ringlets and perfectly moisturized sternum, and, of course, Bradley
Cooper’s endearingly effortful Dock Ellis-inspired curls. But what no one seems to be talking about is the epic (in my mind) beauty blunder that happens only about a minute into the movie.

The film opens on Christian Bale's character, Irving Rosenfeld, strategically building his combover with his own dwindling hair, a tuft of fake hair, and some glue, all of which is set with...

Elnett! UNACCEPTABLE. Commence beauty editor conniption.

Yes, Elnett existed in 1978, the year American Hustle and my conception took place, but this very famous hairspray wasn't sold in the US for another 30 years! Am I to believe that Irving Rosenfeld is a time-traveler who sent himself to the styling-products aisle of Target in 2008 for their exclusive Elnett US launch? Well, I refuse.

When I saw it sitting there on the vanity, it was like a mosquito bite; it made its uncomfortable little impression on me, but it didn't really start bothering me until later, probably because I was quickly soothed by the opening-credits sequence set to "Dirty Work," my favorite Steely Dan song (because it's the only good Steely Dan song--let's be real). But the farther I got from the first minute of the movie, the more I wanted to send a curt email to the prop master.

Those of you familiar with Elnett's history may be thinking, But Marci, professional hairstylists, editors and girls-in-the-know smuggled this cult classic from Europe before it became available stateside, which is weird, because that's exactly what their PR team says, word-for-word. Are you psychic?

So, yes, it's possible that Irving is using a smuggled-in can of Elnett, sure. He's a con man, after all. But I'm going to call shenanigans because I've always wanted to call shenanigans even though I have no idea what that actually means.

Irving isn't some sophisticated international confidence artiste; he's a sleazy guy who owns glass and dry cleaning businesses and takes thousands of dollars from desperate guys for whom he can't actually secure loans. The closest thing he has to a European connection is Amy Adams's character Sydney's British alter-ego, Lady Edith Greensly, and based on his combover technique, I have to assume he doesn't even know a hairstylist.

I briefly entertained the idea that Sydney could have gotten him the Elnett from her stint doing clerical work at Cosmo, but that's just highly unlikely. The editors would've kept it for themselves.

I checked IMDB's American Hustle goofs page, and while this particular anachronism isn't listed, plenty of others are. In fact, they're almost all as esoteric as my catch, so I don't feel quite so persnickety. Or at least I'm in good persnickety company. (Persnickety is fun to say. Try it.)

OK, I'm glad I got this off my chest. Did any of you notice the Elnett and spit-take your popcorn? What beauty goofs have you noticed in other films?