It feels as if this past year has been picked up and swept away by a powerful gust of wind. It has been an entire year since Silver Linings Playbook was released. Regardless, it's officially that time of year again! I'm not talking about Christmas, but about "Oscar season." This is when distributors begin releasing films as close to the Academy Awards as possible. While they want to give audiences time to see it before the awards, they want their film to be fresh on the silver screen when the voters begin to submit their ballots. Columbia Pictures will be distributing David O. Russell's American Hustle in limited release on December 13th, which will see a nationwide expansion on December 20th. Nobody is denying the inevitable truth that this picture is a lock for multi-Academy Award nominations, so all film buffs will want to keep their eyes peeled for this one. Now the question is whether this film is truly worthy of its hype, or simply a big con for that Oscar gold.
When con man Irving Rosenfield (Christian Bale) meets Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams), he realizes that he's found his partner in crime. They continue to work together, as they partake in hustling the desperate out of their cash in order to support their luxurious lifestyle. They soon find themselves being forced to work for a wild FBI agent named Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper) in order to bring down the corruption found in the government and mafia of Jersey. As expected, nothing goes according to plan, causing all plans to spin out of control. A love triangle explodes into a dramatic situation between Sydney, Irving, and his loudmouth wife, Rosalyn Rosenfeld (Jennifer Lawrence). The real question is, who is really being hustled?
Fortunately, the film doesn't take itself seriously in the slightest. Everything is blown out of proportion to the point where the truth in this picture is hidden behind hundreds of layers that the filmmakers have put in. The first scene of the picture prepares us for the tone that will ultimately last through every moment of the running time. There isn't a single word said, as we watch Irving put together his complex comb-over and get ready for the job. It's funny, ridiculous, yet entirely fitting. From there, we begin at the mid-point of the plot before moving backwards in time to reveal how the characters got to where they were. This is a powerful start, as it instantly hooked my interest as to what would lead these roles to this situation. As we're seeing what happened in the past, the audience listens to a few different voice overs. Irving and Syndey's story is fascinating, as we hear portions of the events from the perspective of each of them. Every single character in American Hustle has a strong and clear motive that is expressed from scene to scene in a very fluent fashion.
Once the second act gets into full-motion, the picture keeps itself to a specific scale. While the hustle itself is a very critical point of the feature, it isn't the primary story that's being told. Rather, this is about a love triangle, the pursuit of the American dream, and all of the destruction that they cause. This will surely be categorized as a crime drama, but it's much more of a drama than a crime film. With David O. Russell and Eric Singer's screenplay, we're dealing with intriguing characters that never cease to entertain. One of Rosalyn's comments holds true to nearly every role in the film, stating that maybe they're just deeply sick inside. American Hustle continues to build upon itself to numerous mini-climaxes that span throughout the picture. One of the most impressive elements of the film is how well-crafted the dialogue is. This motion picture had me, along with the remainder of my screening, laughing throughout numerous sequences. The humor is incredibly well-placed, yet it always stays true to the personalities of the characters. However, even when the humor has temporarily stopped, the serious dialogue is just as fantastic.
The entirety of the first two acts kept me emotionally invested and utterly entertained throughout. However, the third act doesn't quite manage to hold up. The overall pacing is quite decent, and the running time is rather tight for this type of film. However, the third act still feels a bit bloated. It isn't nearly as impactful as the rest of the running time. Those who like their films to be subtle will be frustrated with David O. Russell's newest venture, since this one nearly beats you over the head with almost every major plot point. It doesn't feel entirely necessary to constantly flash back in time to visually explain what just happened. This takes a lot of the "oomph" away from the twists found throughout and slows down the pacing. The final act simply isn't as strong as it could have been. While it provided closure, it feels as if it took the easy way out. The ending is often times what viewers remember most, so more attention should have been attributed to its conclusion.
David O. Russell took parts of the casts from previous Oscar films The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook and smushed them into one film, and I'm quite alright with this. It would be an incredibly difficult feat to top this A-list cast. Clearly, the director works very well with these actors, creating a wonderful sense of chemistry on screen. Christian Bale is absolutely phenomenal in the role of Irving Rosenfeld. He's always been known to be entirely devoted to the roles that he takes. While he lost weight for his performance in The Fighter, he gained quite a bit of weight for American Hustle. Even despite his intentional appearance, he portrays a criminally charming persona that will capture the attention of audiences around the globe. Bradley Cooper has come a long way over the years, and his performance as Richie DiMaso displays that. He brings a lot of personality and various dynamics to this role that couldn't have been provided by anybody else. Amy Adams is great as Sydney Prosser, as expected. Her chemistry on screen with each of her co-stars feels absolutely authentic. Jennifer Lawrence deserves recognition for her supporting role as Rosalyn Rosenfeld. She's loud, funny, and overly-dramatic. While I still believe that she looks a bit young for this role, she still manages to bring the talent that we've all come to know and love. Lawrence displays the smallest of mannerisms and personality details that would have been overlooked by many other actresses. Other impressive supporting roles include Jeremy Renner as Mayor Carmine Polito and Louis C.K. as Stoddard Thorsen. Any moviegoer will be more than happy with this cast.
American Hustle has a very distinguished visual style that is consistent throughout the picture. The environments, costumes, make-up, and soundtrack all scream the 80s in a perfect way that will surely grab your attention. There's an insane level of details that went into this production that aided in making this an immersive experience, regardless of how over-the-top the actual film is. David O. Russell has a constant flow of movement throughout the running time. Whether we're in a dinner scene or an intense climactic moment, the camera is almost always moving in some way. There are a lot of moments when the camera closes in on the actors'/actresses'' faces in order to highlight a reaction. While this sounds like it could be dizzying, it isn't. In fact, it actually brings a layer of life to the picture that makes it feel like a living, breathing environment.
There has been a massive amount of hype surrounding American Hustle for quite some time. This isn't the best film of the year, but it still delivers a strong moviegoing experience. The first two acts are captivating, engaging, and intense. There's a lot of tension created throughout the course of the running time. However, the third act is a bit bloated and it nearly beats you over the head with what it's trying to say. Those who are expecting a film simply about a heist are in for a real surprise. While the con is a major portion of the story, the characters and their relationships take center stage. The performances are just as wonderful as one would imagine from such a cast, and the visuals complete this world that audiences are entering. American Hustle is over-the-top in its cinematic and dramatic glory, but it's truly a wonderful film. You certainly won't feel hustled out of the admission price by checking this one out. Highly recommended!