Sunday, December 15, 2013

Movie with Abe: American Hustle

American Hustle
Directed by David O. Russell
Released December 13, 2013

It’s not uncommon for directors to work with the same actors multiple times. Some directors cycle through different actors at different points in their careers, like Martin Scorsese with Robert De Niro for three decades and Leonardo DiCaprio for the past two. After making “The Fighter” in 2010 and “Silver Linings Playbook” in 2012, director David O. Russell reunites with four of his actors, all of whom he directed to Oscar nominations and two to Oscar wins. This collaboration is a positive in many ways since they see eye to eye on tone and style, but this particular story and its contents is not nearly as solid as Russell’s previous two projects.

“American Hustle” begins by explaining the back story behind its two protagonists, Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) and Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams). Irving owns a chain of dry cleaners but wants to move solely into conning poor saps into paying him $5,000 in exchange for the promise of a massive return on investment. Sydney is drawn to him almost immediately after their first meeting and delights in the opportunity to put on a British accent and help Irving sell his fraudulent offers. When eccentric loose cannon FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper) catches on to their schemes, Irving and Sydney are pulled into a grander effort to entrap powerful people such as Camden Mayor Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner) and indict them for corruption.

The film’s opening title states that “Some of this actually happened.” Not meant to be an entirely truthful portrait of a real FBI operation, this film exists in a more over-the-top world, where all of its characters seem larger than life and a bit too ridiculous to be taken seriously. Their New Jersey accents are thick and their fashion styles are wild, and though it’s an entertaining ride, it’s far from a smooth or fully coherent one. Golden Globe voters classify it a comedy, and while there is plenty to laugh at, this is more of a greatly exaggerated drama.

As far as performances are concerned, Bale, Adams, and Cooper all fit into the world created here, but these extravagant turns are not their best work. Jennifer Lawrence, on the other hand, dominates the film in her small part as Irving’s nutty wife, whose blatant disregard for the consequences of her actions servers as an impetus of many of Irving’s troubles in the film. As an ensemble, these four lead a cast littered with familiar faces, like Louis C.K., Alessandro Nivola, Michael Pena, Shea Wigham, and Jack Huston, but it doesn’t gel as entirely as Russell’s previous ensembles. The film as a whole is a fun idea, but it’s not impactful enough during its lengthy runtime and all too fleeting once it’s over.


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