One trailer was all it took and American Hustle had me hooked. You see, I’m that friend that reminds people (constantly) that life’s a hustle and everything is indeed a racket. Hopefully, my dirty jokes and hearty laughter make up for this minor character flaw, but I digress.
American Hustle comes at you with superficial thrills, like Amy Adams plentiful cleavage, and then sucker punches you with one outstanding performance after another. In the end, this movie lays you out with a wicked story and keeps you thinking the entire time. I like thinking and I really liked this movie too.
This past Sunday, American Hustle won for Best Picture at the Golden Globes. I didn’t actually watch the Golden Globes. Instead, I was watching a great indie movie on Netflix. What better way to honor the movie industry than watching “free” movies, right? Besides, I can only sit through one entertainment industry awards show per year, so I save that for the Academy Awards.
American Hustle begins with Irving Rosenfeld’s (Christian Bale) “elaborate” comb over. We watch as Rosenfeld painstakingly applies glue, fake hair and then finishes off with that scraggily comb over. After he finally gets his hair just right, he exits. This is when first see Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) in all her glory. Together, Rosenfeld and Posser pull off a rather tense and awkward bribery attempt. They're working a set up for the FBI, Agent Richie DiMasso (Bradley Cooper), to be exact and things are a little hazy at first.
It’s unclear what exactly is transpiring and who is in control in the opening moments of the film. In other words, it’s hard to tell who’s hustling whom. What is clear, is that Rosenfeld and Possner have been brought in by Agent DiMasso to help him with a case.
It seems DiMasso caught Prosser and Rosenfeld mid-hustle and is making them work for him. He would like them to set up their friends in order for himself to further his career. DiMasso feels like the man in charge for once and he’s not letting go without a fight.
American Hustle is about Irving Rosenfeld and his journey from precocious child to all-American (and shady, but loveable) entrepreneur. Rosenfeld’s story keeps the movie rolling, but his story isn't the only thing transpiring in this film.
There are so many good things happening in this movie that it’s difficult to explain what I liked best. First of all, there’s Christian Bale who always gives more than he’s got to every part. Second, there’s Amy Adams, who brings a reality to her parts that’s hard to ignore. Additionally, there’s the swinging 70s era vibe to this flick and who can resist that? Lastly, this movie is about the hustle and since life is the one “hustle” that we are all obligated to endure, I was captivated.
Christian Bale did not fail to deliver in this film. His accent is so on point that I thought I was listening to some of my Brooklyn in-laws reading lines from the script. Bale tended to the details and that really shone through in his performance. He also thoroughly surprised me with his impeccable comedic timing. I was sharing in his belly laughs from scene one. Bale conveyed a playfully natured hustler with undeniable heart. There’s little to dislike about that.
Amy Adams has always been one to watch and she too came through with her performance. As Sydney Prosser, Adams conveys a deep-seeded vulnerability hidden within a quick-witted businesswoman with the survival skills of a swindler. Prossner’s sharp and bold. She knows what needs to be done and will do it all herself in order to ensure success. Adams' vulnerability balances her character’s sexiness quite well. What I enjoyed most about her performance was the strength she conveyed through her sultry and cerebrally emotional portrayal of Sydney Prossner.
The remaining cast each brought with them well thought out portrayals. They created loveable characters, salt of the earth folks that you feel like you actually know. Bradley Cooper does this comedic blend of annoying that’s endearing and chafing at the same time. He’s over the top with his performance, creating an intensely funny Agent DiMasso. Then there’s Jeremy Renner who has never been one of my favorite actors. I didn't understand his hype until I saw his performance in American Hustle. I can honestly say that I became a fan of Renner’s work after seeing his portrayal of Mayor Carmine Polito in this film.
Jennifer Lawrence brings us an erratic and mean wife in Rosalyn Rosenfeld. Lawrence creates an interestingly charming psycho. She’s so entertaining as the unstable housewife that you forgive every last one of her character’s sins and choose to lover, because you can and because it’s so darn easy. She is, simply put, beguiling as Rosenfeld’s cooky wife.
The only problem I had with this film was following the hustle trail. It was hard to keep up with who was hustling whom. I’m sure that was the intent, but it made things confusing in places. While the movie runs long at 138 minutes (i.e. almost two and half hours), it keeps a brisk pace through the story. The dramatic scenes, which had the potential to make this movie lag, were countered with quick-witted comedy.
There’s not much to dislike when a cast comes together and brings their A game. Each player individually developed an earnest powerhouse performance and that’s rare. This, coupled with two of the most touching scenes that I've seen in a movie in a long time, makes this film a winner on many levels.
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David O. Russell (director), blends genres precisely. This story required a delicate balance of comedy and drama. Serious shit is going down in this film and you laugh it off, but then you pause. You remember that this is all loosely based on real life and that’s sobering. Russell insists that while moral dilemmas can be traumatic, you can get through it with honest laughter and one really bad comb-over.
Again, this film blends comedy and drama seamlessly, but it does so with the added bonus of an exciting, gritty and captivating dramatic storyline. If you want to an excellent black comedy set against a sumptuously 70s backdrop, do yourself a favor and see American Hustle. Watch it while it’s still in theaters. This one is worth your money.
American Hustle (2013) - A+
A+ = When a movie makes it so that when its over and the credits have rolled...you just want to watch it again, it gets an A+. Mission accomplished. Well done.