“Some of these events are true”. The words that open American Hustle are a fair reflection of the liberties this film has taken with the story of the Abscam con. Directed by David S. Russell and seen by him as the spiritual third part of a trilogy that also includes The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle see’s the return of many of the stars who graced those previous efforts and much like those films, is well on it’s way to sweeping up this awards season.
The stories begin by introducing con artists Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) and Sydney Prosser/Lady Edith Greensley (Amy Adams) who are running a loan scam while also in a relationship, despite Irving’s marriage to Rosalyn Rosenfeld (Jennifer Lawrence). However, their world is turned upside down when they are caught in the act by FBI agent Richie DeMaso (Bradley Cooper) and enlisted in helping him taking down some bigger fish.
The plot is at times over complicated and a bit ridiculous, but in all honesty just serves as background to the character studies that are going on in this movie, which is full of absolutely fantastic performances. Bale has one again shown his ability to alter his weight, this time putting on quite a lot, which combined with his ridiculous comb over manages to destroy any sex appeal (which lets face it, is quite a lot) he had. His performance as Irving is also what keeps this film together, as a man who so desperately wants to be the typical American family guy while keeping his cons small scale, is nearly destroyed by DeMaso’s ambition and his failing marriage.
Jennifer Lawrence continues her ascent to becoming one of the greatest actresses of this generation with a scene stealing performance. She is fantastic as the scatter brained, completely insane Rosalyn and expect to see her singing along to “Live and Let Die” while doing the housework a lot in the coming years. Despite this she is almost outclassed by Amy Adams, who’s ability to play a person playing another person who she occasionally forgets to play is masterful. It’s a role that could have easily become a confusing babble of accents but her ability to only let her fake British accent slip when she gets over excited or angry is incredibly well done.
Meanwhile, Bradley Cooper continues his Hangover rehabilitation with a fine shift as DeMaso, hair curlers and all. While Louis C.K. is consistently hilarious as his downtrodden boss who is so desperate for him to stop what he’s doing. Elsewhere there is a familiar cameo as the casino/Mafia boss, which I shall not spoil for you, but works perfectly and Jeremy Renner puts in a solid performance as good guy Mayor Carmine Polito. In short this is a film full of fantastic performances that you are likely to remember long after it’s over.
However, that also might be the problem with this film. The performances are great but you don’t really care about the plot. It’s so character driven that it pushes everything else into the background leaving it feeling a bit hollow. You don’t really care if any of these corrupt politicians are put behind bars. You are too focused on the relationships between these people, to the detriment of the story.
This is a fun film to watch, it will make you laugh throughout and in the performances we see some of Hollywood’s leading men and women putting on master classes in acting. If anyone was to ask me whether I would personally recommend it I wouldn’t think twice in saying yes. However, I would be very surprised if you found yourself pondering the plot for any significant length of time after.