Review by Pete Mason
I went into “American Hustle” intentionally knowing very little about the film. I saw the trailer, got a taste, but hadn’t planned on seeing it until it was nominated for, and winning more often than not, every award in Hollywood this year. I had to see what the hype was, but the cast – Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Jeremy Renner, Louis C.K. and Robert De Niro – ended up being all the convincing I needed. “All-star” doesn’t put it well enough. A veteran actor, five actors whose fame has risen in the past decade, and a comedy genius combine for what has to be the Best Picture winner at the Oscars.
Take the era and suspense of “Argo,” a plot on the level of “Casino,” the “Boogie Nights” soundtrack and wardrobe, and the post-Watergate corruption investigation, ABSCAM. Add in the aforementioned actors and its two hours of edge-of-your-seat, hilarious at times and fully engaging cinema. And with a long con on the level of “The Sting,” the payoff for the film will leave you shaking your head long after the credits roll, as if to say “I can’t believe they pulled that off!”
The story of “American Hustle” has layers upon layers of cons and deals, bribes and illegal moves taking place from Long Island to Camden, New Jersey. Based on a true story (the first screen of the film is “Some of this actually happened”), whatever deviation there was from the original story is wonderful embellishment and makes a forgotten American scandal a complicated, sexy affair. Written by Eric Warren Singer and Director David O. Russell, the script was sometimes set aside for improvisation between actors in some scenes where they were given free rein – a bedroom argument between Irving (Christian Bale) and Roslyn Rosenfeld (Jennifer Lawrence) is one of a few instances – giving actors room to breathe in a way that benefits the overall production.
Bale is a balding, toupee and comb-over scam artist with high and convincing ambition. He deals in fake art, bad loans and dry-cleaning – a lone wolf mobster if you will. While unhappily married to Roslyn (bound to her because he cares for their son), he pairs with Amy Adams to build a business comprised of scams in the thousands of dollars. He’s not a scumbag, just a scam artist who gets what he has coming to him, but not in the “Go to Jail, Do Not Collect $200” way. He’s an individual battling his emotions and guilt in some instances, more human than inhumane.
Amy Adams plays Syndey Prosser, a woman looking for something more in life, which she finds in a British accent and new persona – Evelyn Knight, convincing suckers and bringing in more money with Bale, as both a mistress and business partner. Her wandering accent is easily ignored when she is as stunningly gorgeous as she could possibly be in every scene, holding you captivated more than any role prior of Adams’ career. If not for Cate Blanchett in “Blue Jasmine,” this would be the role for Adams to win a well-deserved award. She was born to play a 1970s film role for the wardrobe alone.
Bradley Cooper (Richie DiMaso) is a home-permed FBI agent that is the jockey of this horse of an investigation, getting deeper and cockier as things progress. You feel truly excited and invested in his character as he leads the investigation. Jennifer Lawrence as Roslyn is a biting wife for Irving, a strong presence in her scenes but just the perfect amount to accent the rest of the cast, but to still not overshadow them as her recent stardom could have commanded. She is perfect in this supporting role.
Jeremy Renner, as Mayor Carmine Polito, looks like Richard Dawson with a quasi-bouffant, is the only character in the film you truly feel bad for, knowing he is destined for jail, but still the only good guy who goes down in the investigation; Camden has apparently never been able to catch a break. Robert De Niro shows up for an incredibly tense scene in a backroom of a casino and pivotal one as the film and con unravel.
Having seen the other Best Picture nominees, the story and acting in “American Hustle” make for a complete film. No frills in production and intense drama throughout, American Hustle is a front-runner for Best Picture and my guess to win on Oscar night.
“American Hustle” is rated R and is currently playing at theaters throughout Nippertown.