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Movie review: American Hustle

American Hustle has been working its way through awards season quite successfully earning Golden Globe awards for Amy Adams (Best Actress) and Jennifer Lawrence (Best Supporting Actress). The Academy Award Nominations were released today, and so far so good for the players:

  • Best Picture
  • Best Director (David O. Russell)
  • Best Actor (Christian Bale)
  • Best Actress (Amy Adams)
  • Best Supporting Actor (Bradley Cooper)
  • Best Supporting Actress (Jennifer Lawrence)
  • Best Original Screenplay

Set in the late 70s era of disco, polyester, and avocado green kitchens, American Hustle tells the story of two grifters (Bale and Adams) who find themselves having to work with a hopped up Fed (Cooper) to bring down some heavy duty hitters in New Jersey, including the mayor of Camden (Jeremy Renner).

I really enjoyed Bale’s performance here as Irving Rosenfeld, a middle aged man with a paunch and a wicked combover who knows how to talk a good game and is charismatic as hell. He’s proven again that he’s not afraid to physically transform into his characters (Method represent, y’all), but he knows how to play understated and quiet for full effect here.

His partner in crime (Adams) also knows how to work the game well and adjusts quickly for situations, but she also knows her limits. Working the long con is serious business, folks. Not everyone has the stomach or the drive for it.

Jennifer Lawrence’s performance was also great. She’s got some issues with the “science oven”, but works it out with a cigarette in hand and miles upon miles of feathered updos. I was seriously getting flashbacks of watching my mother do her hair when she and my father would go out dancing on Saturday nights in the late 70s. Sure, she’s the youngest of the bunch but she holds her own in every scene and works that wardrobe as well as Adams.

Bradley Cooper… well, I didn’t like his performance as much. I think he was trying way too hard to be over the top crazy with his eyes popping out of his head half the time. Sorry, I just don’t see the chops with him (and Jonah Hill by the way) and why they keep getting Academy love. I know I know I’m in the minority, but I gotta say what I feel, right?

Louis C.K. (always a favorite) plays a role here too as Coopers boss, and he’s got a story you need to hear. I’ll say no more.

David O. Russell has been hit or miss with me over the years. Most of the time it’s miss, but one of my all time favorite movies is The Fighter, starring Mark Wahlberg, Bale (Oscar Winner for his performance as Dicky Ecklund), and Adams. When he’s got a story to tell, he’ll tell it to the fullest no matter the cost. If you haven’t seen The Fighter, watch it as soon as humanly possible:

I think American Hustle overall is somewhat flawed, but the good stuff outweighs those flaws and makes it into a good dark comedy/drama/whatever genre you want to put it in. It also captured the look of the late 70s in the sets and costumes as well as lighting in a very realistic and effective manner.

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