"American Hustle" Throwback Review
David O. Russell knows how to make a good film with great actors, even if his antics behind the scene can be described as cruel, especially to Lily Tomlin (look it up). He has a quick style, almost like Scorsese, where he rapidly follows the characters through their journey. It’s worked plenty of times before with films such as The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook, and it works here again in American Hustle. With an assembled all-star cast and a great script with some truth to it, Russell’s film will surely further his status as one of modern Hollywood’s most successful directors.
The film follows five main characters during the late 70s and early 80s. The first is Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale). He’s a born con man who has spent years building up his dry cleaning empire along with an art forgery business on the side. Next to him is Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams), a scrappy and resourceful woman who gets romantically involved with Irving. They both start running a loan scam business together, which after a while attracts the attention of FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper). Knowing he has two expert criminals by the leash, Richie forces Irving and Sydney to participate in an FBI operation to crack down on political bribery and gambling.
The two other characters to show up are Irving’s actual wife, Rosalyn Rosenfeld (Jennifer Lawrence), who’s always on the rocks drinking and smoking while she lays the day away in her house with her and Irving’s child. The last is Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner), mayor of Atlantic City and the prime target in the FBI sting.
The overall plot and pacing of the film are very character focused. Every event is either from a main character or from a side character that affects a main character. This is both a pro and con that the film carries throughout.
The pro comes from the actors making the best of their characters. Every actor has great chemistry and skill to carry the action and emotional wright. The whole film would have probably fallen apart if lesser actors were cast instead, but luckily that never happened.
The con that comes from the character-driven story is that all the characters have a wide range, but very little depth. We only really get surface details and never any real background or striking motivations. The characters are really only memorable because of the actors playing them, which is probably while watching the film I referred every character to the actor. I always saw Christian Bale and Amy Adams, never Irving and Sydney.
David O. Russell is an actor's director and he shows it here. He expertly lets his cast do what they want while also staying within the confines of the script, which can be a bit overlong at times.
The camera acts as a spectator to the action as it reacts and follows whatever the actors do. The frame is only filled with the actors because nothing else is more important. It’s a strategy that works perfectly in this case since it keeps the story focused and free-flowing.
The biggest reason you did or probably will see this film is for the performances, and that is definitely what you get.
Christian Bale goes through another one of his trademarked body transformations to play the overweight con man with an elaborate comb-over. Bale is hardly recognizable from his Dark Knight trilogy days and makes every scene his own.
Amy Adams plays almost like a seductress that is out to overpower every man with her looks and brains. She brings the ferocity to make her character both dangerous and intriguing.
Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence both play sort of eccentric characters that keep interfering with our main pair. They both have great energy and an ability to steal scenes at any given moment.
Finally, Jeremy Renner jumps in and out of the film at times as Carmine Polito. He has charisma, power, but also a heart and genuine love for his city. He’s a troubled character that you really don’t know if you should be rooting for or against.
American Hustle definitely boasts some of the best performances for each of the actors involved. While it never really develops its characters enough, the film is still a fun ride because of the good story and great people. To sum it all up quickly, the actors are not part of this film, they are the film.