Director: David O. Russell Writer: Eric Singer, David O. Russell Actors: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence Runtime: 138 min Rating: 14A
A cast can make or break a film; simply because a film is star-studded does not automatically indicate that it will be effective. David O. Russell’s new comedic period piece American Hustle is an ideal example of a strong cast that actually works very well together. Here, all actors perform their roles with single-minded intensity, and their chemistry and interactivity is consistently mesmerizing. Even though an audience may not particularly like any of the characters on the screen, it is definitely difficult to tear one’s eyes away from them.
American Hustle depicts a fictional tale of greed, corruption, and the fine art of the con. Brilliant conman Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) and his sexy partner Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) enjoy a successful – and fraudulent – loan business until they are caught by FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper). Forced to work for Richie as he schemes to bring down big-shot politicians and mob bosses, Irving and Sydney quickly find themselves in over their carefully coiffed heads as they become entangled in events much bigger than they ever intended. Sexual tension also abounds, and Irving’s unstable and unpredictable wife Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence) adds to the chaos on screen and the fun in the audience.
This film has been classified as a comedy, and although it may take a while to fully adjust to this breed of humour, it quickly becomes apparent that this is a very funny movie. Director Russell delivers quick-witted dialogue similar to the electric screenplay he created for last year’s hit Silver Linings Playbook, and although this film has less heart and more edge, it delivers the laughs nonetheless. American Hustle seeks to capture the spirit of an era, and although I was not alive to experience the late 70s, the older members of my party vouched for its realism, from the outlandish hair, makeup, and outfits, to the throwback soundtrack. Even the opening, retro studio advertisements channelled said time and help to set a mood that is maintained throughout the piece.
Apart from the screenplay, the overall success of this film is due in large part to the incredible performances presented by the lead actors. Their personalities may repulse, but their characters fascinate, and it is easy to believe in their emotions and relationships. Indeed, the chemistry nearly crackles from the screen in each scene, resulting in a mesmerizing film, and one can expect numerous acting nominations come Academy Awards season. Not only did Bale, Cooper, Adams, and Lawrence uniformly impress, but performances by Jeremy Renner as kind-hearted mayor Carmine Polito, Louis C.K. as Richie’s boss Stoddard Thorsen, and Robert De Niro as mobster Victor Tellegio also deserve note.
Although it was entertaining to attempt to follow the plot’s twists and turns, there were moments of confusion, and I am not convinced that I was able to completely keep up. However, the fast pacing of the film allows an audience to become swept up in the madness, and the feeling of being out of one’s depth may be entirely intentional as we are aligned with the characters on screen. American Hustle is a film to watch for it’s snappy dialogue and electric acting. Whether or not it is the year’s finest is still to be determined.