American Hustle is like Goodfellas with more women, less violence, and a lot more humor. If I didn’t know it was David. O Russell who directed this fantastic piece of work I’d think it to be a dead ringer for a Scorsese flick.
As the movie opens it’s narrated in similar fashion to Goodfellas by protagonists Irving (Christian Bale) and Sydney (Amy Adams) and has the same winning combination of mobster/con/showmanship variety that has made that movie a classic.
The film follows Irving and Sydney as they are one day nabbed by the F.B.I for conning people out of loans (something they never explain very well) and are then forced to work for eccentric Richie DiMaso (a permed Bradley Cooper) who forces them to work with the F.BI. to nab white collar criminals. The biggest case they work on mostly consists of them trying to bribe a politician (Jeremy Renner) with the promise of cash from a sheik who would like to invest in the New Jersey area. There is no sheik of course, but throughout the film we see each characters basic outside motivations at work against their inner, hidden agendas of which we can only guess. Some are obvious, like DiMaso who sees this case as the chance to make a name for himself and others are more hidden. Has Sydney fallen in love with DiMaso or is she conning him? Has Irving been conning her all along? After all Iving still refuses to leave his unpredictable and explosive wife Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence) or does he really care for both?
It’s overt and not very subtle in the film but the whole idea of the “American Hustle” is on full display throughout the film. Meaning, each character is basically doing what they need to do to survive and hustle their way out of either jail or to make a living or a career. Some of them are egotists, some are shady, and most are both. Jeremy Renner’s Carmine Polito is a congressman with dubious ethical stances with regards to bribes, and yet at the same time, genuinely sees the possibility of a revived Atlantic City and the possibility of the creation of thousands of jobs as a wonderful thing for his state and city. He really does care. Irving loves Sydney but wants to do right by his son and Rosalyn even though he probably should’ve left them a long time ago. “The Power of Intention Irving!” You’ll get it when you see it. Jennifer Lawrence is so great. Too bad I’m married. Or that I would have absolutely no chance either way.
Anyways, it’s a fun film with excellent performances, if a bit surfacey. Sometimes I forget how great of an actor Christian Bale is and in American Hustle he’s barely recognizable with a stout paunch and a hideous comb-over. I read an article in Slate the other day about how Christian Bale was the opposite of Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Bale transforming his body for roles by gaining weight or losing weight or getting ripped, and yet still sounding similar, and Hoffman, who barely changed his appearance at all and yet managed to don completely different characters and role from movie to movie. Everyone’s great though and it’s by far the most fun film of the year even if it’s not the best.
Check the Slate article out here: http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/movies/2014/02/philip_seymour_hoffman_death_remembering_an_actor_who_could_do_everything.html