<Review by: Sailesh Ghelani>
Directed by David O. Russell. Starring Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Jeremy Renner, Robert De Niro
Just in: American Hustle is nominated for 10 Oscars at the Academy Awards along with Gravity.
David O. Russell seems to have found a winning formula and the perfect actors to use in his movies. Last year it was Silver Linings Playbook (which I thought was overrated; read the review here) that picked up so many awards. And before that there was The Fighter. This year he has American Hustle, a sort of parody about con men (and women) with some excellent dialogue and marvelously over the top performances.
Set in the 1970s, American Hustle has a distinctive style about it. It would seem that Hollywood is going retro, realising this to be the new in-thing. It’s happened with The Wolf of Wall Street. Both films are set in the ‘good old days’, both are about corruption and love, both have voice overs by their leading characters to draw the audience into their world.
I’d say American Hustle has done a better job though. I’m not saying I think either film is the greatest ever made. But recent years have seen some slim pickings since no one makes a Braveheart or Forrest Gump anymore.
The con is on and Christian Bale with a ridiculous comb over and belly (is it a prosthetic or did he put on weight for the role?) plays Irving Rosenfeld who together with the seductive Sydney (Amy Adams) dupes people into giving them $5000 for the ‘promise’ they’ll get a loan. Getting their money is easy but getting a divorce from his not-so-airheaded wife Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence) isn’t.
FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper) is on to Irving and Sydney though but he wants to make a deal: they con a couple of politicians into accepting bribes and he’ll let the small fish off the hook. Two con men become three! With some interesting interplay and transfer of affections making for delightful banter and situational comedy.
Robert De Niro has a small but effective role as a mob boss. And stand up comedian Louis CK plays Stoddard Thorsen, Richie’s spineless FBI boss.
American Hustle is about the dialogue (by David O Russell and Eric Singer) and it is delivered in style by its fine cast. With the wrong talent it would have gone haywire. Jennifer Lawrence and Christian Bale are wonderful. J-Law has shown her ability to be versatile: confused young Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games and a decidedly adroit woman in American Hustle.
What’s interesting in the film is that you’re never quite sure who is double crossing whom and whether it is money, fame or love that motivates them.
Just like The Wolf of Wall Street, I found American Hustle to be a tad too long though.
Clever writing is what the awards reward and American Hustle has plenty of that. Great performances make a film shine and American Hustle bubbles up with them. The film didn’t wow me but it is undoubtedly watchable and well made.