Arts & Culture

Sabering Hollywood: American Hustle (2013)

217068-american-hustle-poster-2By Sabra Schirm

Christian Bale and Amy Adams deliver stunning performances in David O. Russell’s American Hustle. Conman Irving Rosenfield and his brilliant girlfriend and partner, Sydney Prosser, find themselves in a sticky situation that ends with them taking orders from F.B.I. hot-head, Richie DiMaso. Desperate to prove himself, DiMaso pushes his unwilling co-conspirators into the world of Jersey powerbrokers, corrupt politicians, and the mafia. With the possibility of failure looming overhead, Irving and Sydney must find a way to get out of this mess alive.

American Hustle, which was written by David O. Russell and Eric Singer, is directed by David O. Russell, and stars: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Renner, and Jennifer Lawrence.

In the style of the 1970’s heist films, American Hustle is two parts action, two parts style, and served over ice, shaken, not stirred. Though not an exploitation film, per se, it shamelessly revels in the decade in which it is set, fur coats, polyester and all. It is very much a modern film, but one wrapped up decadently in all the things that the collective consciousness has come to associate with the 1970s.

That being said, had the film focused solely on the decade, and the lingo, this film would not have worked as well as it did. Luckily, for all the glamour and the glitz found throughout the film, the decade is incidental to the story itself, so adds to the film without being a distraction.

Sparkling as bright as any sequined dress, Amy Adams and Christian Bale dominated the screen with their sizzling on-screen chemistry and their characters’ complicated, yet fascinating relationship. Though by no means the only powerful performance, these two owned the film in a way that made it their own. They let the other actors, most notably Bradley Cooper and Jeremy Renner, borrow the spot light for a while, but never long enough to own the audience as completely as they did. However, the film was not without its faults.

Though by no means the weakest link, Jennifer Lawrence’s character of Roselyn Rosenfield, Irving’s wife, seemed more of a caricature of the hysterical, borderline alcoholic housewife. She vacillated between emotionally fragile and coyly manipulative, and never really seemed to find her feet on a comfortable middle ground. As someone who considers herself a fan of Jennifer Lawrence, I’d say this uncomfortable performance was more a fault of the writing than the acting. I would be hard pressed to imagine how one would perform the character of Roselyn without slipping into caricature.

In addition, he ended with a bang, Bradley Cooper initially came across as uncomfortable in the character’s skin. I am not sure if this was deliberate or not, but it left me with the overall opinion that the latter half of his performance was stronger, to the point of being unbearably intense. Had it not been for the beautiful intensity of the latter half of his performance, I’m not sure I could have appreciated his presence in the film, at all.

Overall a complex and beautiful film, American Hustle is a theater experience worth having. It’s complex in a way that leaves you off balance. Though I loved this film more upon reflection, when initially asked about my experience, my response was positive, but unable to explain just why I loved it so much.

As this film is a bit harder for me to categorize than the others, I’m going to give it an 8, with the caveat that it is the sort of film you either love or hate…but, I hope that you love as much as I do.

Categories: Arts & Culture

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