American Hustle

David O. Russell has hit it 3 for 3 with this latest flick. This is a compelling love story wrapped in a con-heist featuring complex leads that are likably unlikeable. Russell seems to have a knack for drawing such characters. Bringing together the stars from his previous two films, The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook, the expectations of the audience, critics and the actors themselves must be undoubtedly high. Especially for the new guy(s). This film is without a doubt, like Silver Linings Playbook, going to be a major awards contender. Director, Picture and even Screenplay seems to be a lock for nominations. However, surprisingly, it is the acting category that will be rather challenging. In here we have 2 Academy Award winners and both for Russell's movies in Christian Bale (The Fighter) and Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook), and 3 Oscar nominees in Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams and, new guy, Jeremy Renner. This movie might break the trend of producing an Academy Award winner but it might sneak in some nominations. Of these 5 actors, the easiest to rule out will be Cooper. It was a surprise to see him even nominated for Silver Linings Playbook, and this movie clearly shows why. He has no range nor depth in acting. He is still Bradley Cooper. In all his characters that he has played, he has never once really inhabited the role to give us more than what was superficially written on the script. His scenes are usually the most painfully annoying and drags the film down (sometimes the 2 hours run times feels like a lot more when he is onscreen). The central 2 leads - Bale and Adams - were standouts with the latter giving one of her best work in a long time. Bale, in his own unique way, gave us an anti-hero that we slowly begin to love, and as the movie progressess, layers and layers of this character is slowly peeled off to reveal a hero within and Bale shows it all to us. Adams on the other hand, could be easily be dismissed as being the glamour-puss of the movie, but her character is a counter-point to Bale's. As we get deeper and deeper into the story, her hard exterior belies her inner nature and then before we know it, we get moments where it is all swapped and her softer core comes out but her soul is hardened. Adams amazingly dazzles us with those eyes that speaks volume. She would be the best bet for a Supporting Actress nomination but unlikely as she is more the female lead. However, Lead Actress will be challenging, but could be a possibility for a nomination though not a win. Then we have the belle of the moment, Jennifer Lawrence, who once again shows us (and me) what a terrific and exciting actress she is for someone so young. She was so much better here than in The Hunger Games and X-Men: First Class. I might even say that her role here is more deserving of a nomination than her win for Silver Linings Playbook (but if Adams run for supporting too, Lawrence definitely has the edge over her in terms of popularity sadly). As the manipulative, trashy wife of Bale's conman, she is clearly having a ball of a time, and Lawrence is almost completely lost in that role. She's in it. She has became exciting to watch again. Lastly, poor Renner has still not found another movie for him to shine since The Hurt Locker. He was good here, but just good. Not great. Competently acceptable. He did not bring anything special to the role but neither did he distract from it like Cooper. Honorable mention to Louis CK, who with Blue Jasmine, is having a rather nice run on the big screen. Russell was just excellent. A unique narrative to start off the movie and although occasionally the pacing seemed stalled, it picks up again quite fast. The 70s sets, costumes (Adams' and Lawrence's) and hair was astonishing detailed. Even the wash of the print felt vintage. The script by Russell and Eric Warren Singer, could be a bit more trimmed but I'm glad that they decided to show rather than tell us about the characters, thereby letting us be part of the characters' emotional and psychological evolution. Although, some bits did nothing much other than indulgence. Then there is the amazing soundtrack (not so much the music which was by Danny Elfman), but the 70s music that peppered throughout was in a word: smooth. The songs just totally set the mood for the scenes. A good movie, with great acting, solid directing and smart-ish writing, just a bit pacey.


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