American Hustle is a delightful whirlwind of nail varnish, comb-overs, quiffs and hairspray. The eccentric costumes are fitting of both the time setting of the film as well as the characters – whose natures are artificially glamorous, fake and nasty. David O. Russell has created a film with a fun and nostalgic visual aesthetic that reflects the superficial individuals who turn up in this hilarious, twisted and tense story about con artists, deception and strategy. When two partners in crime, as well as the bedroom, find themselves out of luck and out of options they resort to assisting the FBI with a series of “busts” in order to save their own skin. Each character keeps their cards hidden and their poker faces painted on, making it difficult for the audience to figure out the real intentions and motives behind the characters’ actions until the final chapters of this exciting tale. It is a lengthy but rewarding watch that enticed me with a tale of mind games, bribery and deceit. The soundtrack is slick with the likes of Elton John there to thrust you right into the seventies and these characters’ empty lives. The opening sequence of the film is both amusing and action packed, creating a real sense of what American Hustle is all about before taking you through an enjoyable back story. There is more comedy than I was expecting and it feels pretty effortless. It is a naturally funny film that avoids becoming desperate in an attempt to amuse its audience. Many have complained at the length of the film and the story’s lack of substance. I for one was fully engaged and engrossed throughout – content with the film’s pacing and development.
Underneath all of the cheap jewellery and hair products are five actors giving some of their best performances. Christian Bale plays the over weight Irving, a con man who seems to be ageing in the most disgraceful way possible. Having gained an impressive amount of weight for his part there is no doubting Bale’s conviction and his commitment to the role. Modelling a pantomime-like comb-over and beer belly, Bale takes on a caricature-like appearance. His acting balances this wonderfully, giving us a truly complex and deeply explored character whose intensity and believability counteracts against his amusing outer shell. Amy Adams, with a very convincing accent that is constantly, and purposefully, switching from English to American, plays Sydney – Irving’s mistress and business partner who switches from femme fatale to vulnerable damsel throughout the film. She is the most confusing character and the one that we never truly get to the bottom of. It is a brave and brassy performance from Adams. I would have argued it is her best if it wasn’t for her incredible performance in Paul Thomas Anderson’sThe Master from this time last year. Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper also give fantastic performances and provide the comedy and frustration that drives this story. Jeremy Renner shines in a slightly smaller role where he has transformed himself into a different kind of actor. Renner is a charming and unexpected surprise and remains the only truly likeable character amidst a swarm of the corrupt and poisonous. American Hustle is simply a fun movie that isn’t taking itself too seriously. That being said, there is a dark and icy edge to this film that makes it that little bit more delicious.
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