“If this ever changing world in which we’re living makes you give in and cry, say live and let die.”
Truly, it is a live and let die world in American Hustle, a crime dramedy from director David O. Russell, clearly channeling the legendary Martin Scorsese. American Hustle has garnered enthusiastic praise as one of the best movies of the year, and has elicited comparisons to Scorsese’s own Goodfellas, and while I wouldn’t go so far as to call it among my best-of choices, I still had a pleasant time with it.
Featuring an all star cast, the film stars Christian Bale and Amy Adams as con artists, Irving Rosenfeld and Sydney Prosser, who are paired up with FBI agent, Richie Di Maso (Bradley Cooper), who seeks to bring down several political figures, including the “corrupt” Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner). What ensue are a series of deception, humor, and a stellar collection of “Greatest Hits” 70’s tracks.
“Some of this actually happened” reads the opening text. The film is loosely based on the real life events of the ABSCAM scandal in the 70’s, and the film does well to place us firmly in the timeframe. From the costumes by Michael Wilkinson to the production design and makeup, the attention to detail is all so exquisite. However, I found myself underwhelmed by the script. As much as I appreciate the characters and the tone that Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell create, I found some of the comedy going a little too far, and there were some stretches I wasn’t particularly entertained by, and that may have a lot to do with the fact that script itself can be uneven, and editor Jay Cassidy and company don't do much of a good job making sense of the situation.
If there’s anything that can be taken away from this movie, it’s that, like all of David O. Russell’s films, the acting is all around terrific. Acting as something of a reunion for the casts of The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook, the cast spark with such great chemistry and charm that it was hard not to be won over by them. Christian Bale continues to prove what a great chameleon he is with such a witty and transformative performance, Amy Adams is absolutely alluring, and Bradley Cooper does wonderfully in his enraged, control demanding performance. Jeremy Renner plays what is perhaps the most likable character of the cast, and even smaller performances from Louis C.K., Jack Huston (I’m so happy to see this guy getting more work), as well as one surprise actor (don’t want to spoil anything) who shows up at the halfway point all perform very well.
Perhaps the standout of the cast, in my opinion, is Jennifer Lawrence, who plays Irving’s unpredictable wife Rosalyn. Lawrence threatens to feel too young for the role, but that never even crossed my mind as she plays it with such finesse. She’s feisty, energetic, sincere, hilarious, and completely wild, and she just relishes every single second. One scene where she performs “Live and Let Die” is so much fun to watch.
I’d have liked to love this film more than I did, but to say I didn’t have a nice time with American Hustle would not be true. For whatever problems it may have, I was still won over by the sheer energy of the experience, and the crackling chemistry established, to an extent.
*** / *****