This movie opens with a three-minute scene of Christian Bale gluing a comb-over onto his head. Why haven’t you stopped reading this review and purchased a ticket to this movie yet? Well? Oh, you need to hear more about it…? FINE.
American Hustle tells the story of a small time con man, Irving (Bale), and his partner in crime, Sydney (Amy Adams), as they get in a bit of legal trouble and are forced to work with hotshot FBI agent Richie DiMaso using their con tactics to take down white-collar criminals and politicians (like the New Jersey mayor played by Jeremy Renner). It takes place in 1978, and has a great soundtrack to reflect that. Gotta respect a period piece that plays the same awesome Electric Light Orchestra song not once, but twice. And Jean Genie? C’mon, American Hustle, I’ve already given you my money.
This is definitely a movie where the cast stands out as the main reason to go. It’s one of those films that will probably get nominated for acting in all four categories, and with good cause. I’m not sure anyone from this will actually win anything, though my best bet would be Amy Adams, because she’s kind of due to win by now (and her costume designer should probably get nominated for the gratuitous amount of cleavage that is ever present, like a character of its own). But everyone brings their A-game, even Robert DeNiro, who is only in one scene, but doesn’t act like he’s just cashing in a Fockers paycheck. In fact, maybe Bobby D should be forbidden to act in anything anymore that isn’t a David O. Russell film from this point on.
As an extension of the cast being great, the characters they play are super freakin entertaining and they play really well off each other. Richie DiMaso is probably my favorite supporting character in any movie this year. Cooper plays him perfectly spazzy and hilarious. The con men protagonists are also very well written, as they prove to be cunning but still very capable of making mistakes. And a lot of times, they are so deep in their cons that they begun conning themselves, with elements like Irving’s comb-over (he’s tricked himself into thinking he’s got a better appearance) and Sydney’s accent (tricked herself into believing she’s of a higher status). These are people who are so comfortable in their lies that it’s basically just become who they are. And it’s nice to see a movie where I was so engrossed in the story and characters that I didn’t really anticipate how it was going to end. Sure, in retrospect, it ends kind of how you expect it to, but it’s still an engrossing way to get there. Probably the only character in the whole film who I knew wasn’t going to get the short end of the stick was Irving’s wife Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawerence), because she was the most manipulative person I’ve ever seen. Though, she was a bit of a wildcard. Jennifer Lawrence does crazy weirdo pretty good, as even in her quieter moments, she’s still acting like a fucking psycho.
For me, it was the little comedy moments that made this movie for me. This is actually one of the funnier movies released this year. Rosalyn blowing up the science oven was hilarious. And Richie and his boss’s (Louis C.K.) ongoing joke about an ice fishing story cracked me up every time. In addition to a great, frantic sense of pacing to it, it also has magnificent comic timing. This David O. Russell guy is pretty good, I GUESS.
I just ate this whole movie up, though. It’s like an ode to Scorsese, but told in a slightly different enough way that you know it isn’t *actually* a Scorsese movie. But damn, every speedy zoom and alternating voiceover moment had me really want to watch Goodfellas again. But I guess as a compliment to Russell, I wasn’t disappointed that Scorsese wasn’t the actual director of it (like I did for something like Pain & Gain), because DO-RUSS (that nickname probably won’t stick) does his thing really well, if his thing is having people in a room yelling at each other dramatically. Like in pretty much every scene. I was kind of impressed at the level of frantic yelling in this film. I was also impressed at the amount of people who almost have sex but then don’t end up having sex in this movie. The people in American Hustle probably have to ice down their crotches between takes.
Yet, I was kind if expecting this to be my number one movie of the year since, I don’t know, around the time the first trailer came out, so I had some high expectations. That’s not to say that this wasn’t a fantastic movie (it is), it just maybe lacked a certain “umph” to it. Or maybe it didn’t have enough “moments”? I think my initial (very slight) let down that it wasn’t 100% amazing non stop cinema gold kind of hurt it a little for me, but not drastically. The movie that I ended up seeing instead was great in its own way. It’s a character heavy, dialogue heavy comedy film that guises itself as dramatic crime film. I’ve actually had a chance to see American Hustle a second time since it was released last week, and I enjoyed it even more on the second viewing than I did the first, so it does have some great replay value. And I hope one day to have as elaborate of a hair system as Irving.
9 out of 10