American Hustle is going to be the film to beat at the Oscars this year and we are going to talk about it! No pressure, right? The film was written and directed by David O. Russell (The Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook). Many have been calling this O. Russell’s attempt at making a Martin Scorsese movie and that’s not 100 percent wrong, but it requires more of a distinction.
Since American Hustle takes place in the 1970s and deals with dirtier aspects of life, the parallels are seemingly drawn between Casino and Goodfellas. Hustle is subtler, with more nuance and it builds drama with dialogue, as opposed to the gratuitous violence and over-acting that Scorsese uses. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE Goodfellas and Casino, but they are a little over the top and intense – which is great at times, but exhausting at others.
David O. Russell’s crime film is more like a Playboy magazine and Scorsese’s is more like a Hustler magazine. The themes are similar, but the portrayal is more graphic. Both takes on the genre are beautiful in their own way, but one is just more intense. To put it in terms that aren’t nudie magazines: American Hustle is The Beatles and Scorsese’s crime dramas are The Rolling Stones. The Beatles are softer and more lyrical with a sense of humor and The Rolling stones being harder, louder, grittier and chock full of drugs.
Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) is a low-level con man that grinds out a comfortable living under the radar. He meets the beautiful Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) at a party and a romantic relationship/partnership is formed. In order for any man to discover his full potential, he needs to find a partner to push them to that point of fulfillment.
Spoilers ahead, so proceed with caution!
Sydney pushes Irving to that point of total success because of their partnership and their business is growing – well, that is until they run into FBI agent Richie Dimaso (Bradley Cooper). Once these three cross paths, the game is afoot and all hell starts to break loose.
Now, I don’t want to give too much away, but this movie is about con artists, so nothing’s as it seems – at any point. It keeps you on the edge of your seat and makes it impossible for your mind to wander. Everyone is trying to fuck everyone and everyone is trying to fuck everyone else over. It gets hot and it gets dicey.
Irving and Sydney get in hot water and are forced to work with the FBI. Things grow more complicated – like a maelstrom in the middle of the ocean. Opposing currents lead to a vortex that grows stronger and pulls in ships and confused sharks, sucking them down to the deep, dark sea. The FBI is trying to set up Mayor Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner), who is a good man, but they try to get him involved in a bigger political scandal and shit hits the fan. If things weren’t complicated enough as it is, Irving’s wife, Rosalyn (the perfect Jennifer Lawrence) throws a wrench in the operation – only making things worse.
That’s right, ladies! Irving is a con man and cheats on his wife. Shocking right? Why would a man who has Jennifer Lawrence ever even look at another woman, or worse – put his hands on them? Madness! Alas, Amy Adams is a saucy redhead with a little crazy in her (my kind of lady). If Amy Adams or Jennifer Lawrence happen to read this, feel free to give me a call, we can grab a drink and see where the night takes us. Now where was I? Ah yes! The plot thickens with the meddling Rosalyn (Lawrence) and that’s all I’ll give you. Granted, this movie has been out for a couple weeks and you folks should have seen it by now. If you haven’t, you need to get your butts to the theater and HUSTLE UP.
I usually like to wrap things up discussing the quality of acting, but it seems mute here. Bale (Oscar winner), Cooper (Oscar nominated) Adams (4 time Oscar nominee), Renner (2 time Oscar nominee), Lawrence (Oscar winner). This cast is powerhouse and all actors rise to the occasion in American Hustle. It almost seemed like a competition of who could steal the show best.
The music in this film set the tone perfectly, and the master behind that was the great Danny Elfman. If you don’t know Danny Elfman, he is the creator of the theme song for The Simpson’s, composer for most of Tim Burton’s films and the singing voice of Jack Skellington in Nightmare Before Christmas. He is truly amazing and provides the perfect pitch for American Hustle.
With a period-piece like this, an overlooked but key department is Costume Design. For Hustle, Michael Wilkinson helmed this ship. Wilkinson gave us the new Superman suit in Man of Steal (I’m still on the fence), the amazing costumes in Watchmen and the lack of clothing on all the men in 300 (thank him sometime, if you’re into it).
Many amazing movies have come out this past year, but I think the Oscar will come down to American Hustle or 12 Years a Slave. Some other fantastic movies that will most likely be nominated are: Inside Llewyn Davis, Nebraska, Her, Wolf of Wall Street, Gravity, Dallas Buyers Club and Captain Phillips. So many movies to watch, but so little time! Make time for this one, folks.
When all is said and done, I give American Hustle 5 gingerbread cookies, one shaped like each of the main characters (the Jennifer Lawrence one is mine!).