Director: David O. Russell
Writers: Eric Singer and David O. Russell
Cast: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Jeremy Renner and Louis C.K.
“American Hustle” riffs on the work of Scorsese. Is that out of the way? Good. When the film opens on Christian Bale carefully detailing his thinning hair, we get to meet the world of “American Hustle” full-on. This isn’t “Goodfellas” and it’s not like anything else that Russell has put together so far. The film dares us to look at the fake American bullshit that we surround ourselves and try to claim as our own. From that point on, we are introduced into the larger world of the Abscam scandal. Characters fly in and out of the picture, plus Robert DeNiro gets to make a cameo.
David O. Russell has stated multiple times that he was focused on the characters rather than the plot. That doesn’t hurt a film like “Silver Linings Playbook”, but it makes fact based movies such as “American Hustle” tread into uncertain waters. The audience starts seeing actors instead of real individuals. We are then taken into a Brechtian world of constant awareness that only leads to a greater disconnect. Hence, so many viewers trying to make connections back to Scorsese’s work. I hate to tell you, but other directors were making late 70s/early 80s crime flicks before Scorsese. He just did it the best.
Louis C.K. has not been getting enough attention for his role as Bradley Cooper’s boss. Louis plays the schlub, but he plays him with sense of authority. When Cooper starts imitating him, we get to see something starting to crack. But, it never does. That’s a testament to C.K.’s ability to dial back enough to get the laughs in a team situation. What makes it work is that as the film goes on, we see Bradley Cooper beginning to mirror Christian Bale. Thus, the audience is left to wonder who’s the biggest bullshitter among them?
There’s a beauty to lying to a point that you create a masterpiece. The real life actions of Cooper and Bale’s characters led to then largest corruption busts in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and US Congressional history. While Bale and Adams’ characters swindled a dozen people, they also helped to create real change in the American government. That was until the next batch of bullshitters took office. There’s something to be said for the cyclical nature of vice that never gets addressed here. Honestly, I don’t feel that it was addressed enough in “The Wolf of Wall Street” either.
But, it’s insanely fascinating that we get two films about this material so close to the Christmas season. It’s almost as though there’s something to be said about trying to create a lie using cash and material goods. Solid cinematic works can get you thinking like that and I’m easy to knock off topic. That being said, I love what I saw here and I welcome everyone to check it out. That being said, Jennifer Lawrence needs to start playing age appropriate roles. She seemed way too young here.
RELEASE DATE: 12/20/2013