“American Hustle” Review
With awards season upon us why not review one of the top contenders?
American Hustle is a film based on the FBI’s ABSCAM operation during the ’70s and ’80s in which federal agents enlisted the help of a convicted con-man to expose political corruption. The film is a very character driven drama that is unfortunately drawn out a bit too much and lacking in any significant depth. Although filled with an amazing cast and one really great cameo, American Hustle could have been benefitted from being condensed into a much shorter film and with a clearer plot if it relied less on its collection of characters.
American Hustle is a film built on cons: the idea that people are cons, often con themselves, and con others. That’s pretty much the basis of the whole movie. Each character? A con. How these people survive and compete within the same world is what makes this movie great, because they all do it by constantly conning each other. You find that the actual “con artists” – played by Bale and Adams – aren’t the only people out to con others in order to succeed. Sometimes cons are found in the people we normally expect to be the “good guys” (i.e., cops and politicians). American Hustle – much like ABSCAM itself – is all about exposing their corruption.
The movie centers on Irving Rosenfeld, a man who appears to be a simple small town business owner, but behind closed doors is an absolute swindler. He sells counterfeit paintings and takes people’s money for the exchange of bogus loans. His considerable skills at understanding and manipulating people, along with devising plans to con them, eventually attracts the attention of the government. His struggle to escape (or achieve the greatest con of all time!) is what tortures him throughout the movie, especially when his actions put his wife, son, and mistress in danger. Christian Bale made this character someone intriguing that you really enjoy watching. He developed quite a few fantastic mannerisms that transformed him entirely into Rosenfeld. Bale took a physically unattractive anti-hero and made him infinitely likable and even more importantly, extremely watchable.
Amy Adams is a gem in this movie. Her talent shines as brings to life Sydney Prosser, the “other woman” in Irv’s life. She plays a woman in love who can’t have what she wants, a woman trying to escape her past, and a woman who ultimately doesn’t really know who she wants to be. Adams does a great job delivering all of that inner conflict. Interestingly enough, Adams, as Prosser, pretends to be the well-connected Lady Edith Greensly for much of the movie. A woman with a cheap British accent, Greensly is a character created to scam people out of their money. Adams portrays completely different people in this as the characters of Lady Edith and Sydney are entirely different entities. Portraying two characters is something even the best actors struggle with. Adams not only stands out for acting but also for appearance. Note the very revealing dresses above; you can’t take your eyes off her with whenever she walks on screen. With this movie Adams clearly is building up an incredible resume and proves she can conquer any role.
Without going on too much of a lover’s rant that would include how Jennifer Lawrence is the greatest actress of our generation, she does do a phenomenal job in this movie. Portraying a struggling mother who just wants a man to take care of her, Jennifer goes to a place we have yet to see her. She wants to do anything to get the attention of her husband and sometimes that urge gets her into trouble. Her need to feel loved nearly gets everybody killed. Lawrence may be in her early twenties but her portrayal here is beyond her years. Every role she takes on is near flawless and I expect her to sweep at the awards this season.
Even with having bad hair that give’s Stone’s (2010) Edward Norton a run for its money, Bradley Cooper does a decent job as a struggling and glory-seeking FBI agent who lusts not only for Lady Edith, but for the power trip that comes with his work as well. Cooper portrays the struggle of inadequacy exacerbated by intermittent drug use. His rage and confidence makes you cringe as he continues to try and one up himself time and time again. With that said, Cooper doesn’t really make the movie great but by no means does he bring it down. I’m glad Cooper is picking these types of roles that challenge him. He is trying and with each role he is getting better and that is a great sign.
American Hustle has a fantastic ensemble cast, something crucial to a character-driven story like this one. But the issue with a movie like that is the plot can often drag out and get muddled when you focus too much on the characters. American Hustle might have done better as a television mini-series where it might have the room to explore the characters further without having to sacrifice a coherent plot, but alas. Fortunately this movie is built upon one of the best casts of the year. This group of actors could be in every movie from now on and I would be fine with that. It will be interesting to see how well American Hustle does during the rest of awards season; I expect it will do well, despite having to compete with the likes of The Wolf of Wall Street and others.
In the meantime, check out this cool feature comparing the characters of “American Hustle” to the real-life people.