AMERICAN HUSTLE (David O. Russell, 2013)
Opened December 13
Combining cast members from his previous two hits, Silver Linings Playbook and
The Fighter, which garnered fifteen Academy Award nominations and three wins between them, David O. Russell scores big again with American Hustle. Inspired by a true story — the film opens by playfully declaring “Some of this actually happened” — American Hustle is set in 1978, focusing on smarmy con man Irving Rosenfeld (a dynamic Christian Bale), a paunchy small-timer with a spectacular comb-over and ultra-cool, ever-present shades who is pulling off low-level dirty deals first by himself, then with a new partner, the sexy-beautiful Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams, channeling a young Nicole Kidman), who also goes by the name Lady Edith Greensly. Soon the Feds come calling, and FBI agent Richie DiMaso (a superbly coiffed Bradley Cooper) gives them little choice but to take part in a sting involving Camden mayor Carmine Polito (a wonderfully wigged Jeremy Renner), a fake Arab sheikh (Michael Peña), several congressmen (including one played by longtime character actor Anthony Zerbe), and a major mobster (a surprise, uncredited appearance by a two-time Oscar winner doing what he does best). While Richie falls for Edith — they have one heckuva night at Studio 54 — Irving has to deal with his shrewish, demanding wife (a scene-stealing Jennifer Lawrence) as he develops a real fondness for Carmine. As in the best caper flicks, Russell (Flirting with Disaster, Three Kings), who rewrote Eric Warren Singer’s original script (there is also substantial improvisation by the outstanding cast), keeps the twists coming, leaving the audience guessing who’s conning who up to the very last minute. Linus Sandgren’s cinematography, Michael Wilkinson’s fab costumes, Judy Becker’s spot-on production design, and the period-heavy soundtrack (featuring songs by Elton John, the Bee Gees, Donna Summer, Tom Jones, America, Wings, and others) capture the late 1970s in all its bizarre glory, with no detail overlooked. Bale is sensational as Irving, giving the role a heartfelt depth, while Adams, in boob-baring dresses, and Lawrence, in gorgeous, upswept blond hair, are superb as the strong women he is caught between. An expertly made movie that celebrates the art of filmmaking itself, American Hustle might be a fictionalized version of what really went down, but everything about it rings absolutely true.
Nominated for ten Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Director (David O. Russell), Best Actor (Christian Bale), Best Actress (Amy Adams), Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Bradley Cooper), Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Jennifer Lawrence), Best Original Screenplay (Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell), Best Film Editing (Jay Cassidy, Crispin Struthers, Alan Baumgarten), Best Costume Design (Michael Wilkinson), Best Production Design (Judy Becker, Heather Loeffler)