Loosely based on the FBI Abscam operation during the late 70s and early 80s, David O. Russell?s American Hustle is a crime dramedy about two con artists forced by an ambitious FBI agent to set up an elaborate sting operation to nab corrupt politicians. Though the film does take creative licenses on storytelling and actual events, it is quick to establish upfront that ?Some of this actually happened.? Now, as to which parts were real and which were embellishments, none of it really matters as the film as a whole is such a joy to watch. Such wonderful performances from such a kinetic bunch of today?s ?it? people. Truly an ensemble cast performance, each cast member symbiotically plays off the other, where all of them rise to achieve greater acting heights together. No one person truly stands out as they are all equally outstanding. However, the girls do have the advantage of having more interesting roles.
Christian Bale transforms himself once again. This time, into an overweight, out of shape, balding middle-aged smarmy grifter with a terrible comb-over. His Irving Rosenfeld is a career con artist, with several shady businesses operating simultaneously out of his rinky-dink office. Whether he?s embezzling someone else?s hard-earned money or pawning off pieces of fake art, he at least has a legit dry cleaning service to keep him honest. Despite his shady half, he is actually a good father to his adopted son and maintains a weirdly complicated relationship with his young flakey wife.
Amy Adams is a revelation in her sultry portrayal of Sydney Prosser/Lady Edith Greensly. One could say, it is a role within a role as her character is the consummate con woman, immersing herself within layers of deception and false identities. There?s a strange mix of defiant strength and paralyzing desperation in her performance, making her duality even more pronounced. Sometimes catty, sometimes vulnerable, always in control. And it doesn?t hurt one bit that Adams? look fits so well with the era. She rocks those plunging necklines like she was born to wear them.
Bradley Cooper craves your attention as the maniacal, overzealous FBI agent who has his eyes set on the corner office or that shiny new promotion. His Richie DiMaso is a study in contradiction as you really can?t pinpoint if he?s a good guy who acts like a jerk or a bad guy with noble intentions. His blind ambition and raw drive though can really be scary, especially as the sting gets more and more complicated. The sheer sight of him in little hair curlers though is enough to make you see the lengths he?s willing to go through just to make an impression.
Jeremy Renner plays wonderfully against type in this offbeat role of an oily politician, Mayor Carmine Polito. No brooding Hawkeye or off-kilter bomb specialists here, Polito is your traditional mouthy, overly friendly, shake-your-hands-and-kiss-your-babies type of politician with a huge and noisy Italian brood of five kids, an overly made up wife plus an adopted black kid for good measure. He makes rousing speeches at the drop of a hat, sings Tom Jones at the top of his voice and has made the everyman his friend while championing the cause of restoring Atlantic City to its former glory. What everybody turns a blind eye to is that he has his hands deep in the Mafiosi and doesn?t really mind turning tricks so long as he doesn?t get caught.
And once again, Jennifer Lawrence delights as the low-brow, low-class, sassy, dim-witted, technology-impaired young wife and poor excuse for a mother, Rosalyn Rosenfeld. The beauty of the performance is how light and natural it all feels, as if Lawrence isn?t acting at all. There?s a realness to her flakiness that the character is so easy to accept, you?re so readily endeared. She just comes off though as perhaps being a tad too young to play the role though. But, that?s easily overlooked.
A brave, ambitious little film, American Hustle is sure to make waves and catch raves during awards season. The performances could be well recognized in all four acting categories. David O. Russell could get a nod or two as Director and as co-screenwriter with Eric Warren Singer. It could also get a nod for Film Editing, Costume and Production Design, not to mention the big one, Best Picture. Though criticized as being Scorsese-esque, the film has a lot going for itself to carry it through. Expect the film to play the long con as it hustles from one award-giving body to another. But then again, that?s just my opinion. 🙂