Directed by David O. Russell
American Hustle is a ridiculously good film. I just couldn’t stop asking myself: is this tight, clever, preposterous, over the top? American Hustle is all those things and more. Basically, you get a neatly plotted hustle alongside an absolutely outrageous scene with Jennifer Lawrence singing and dancing to Paul McCartney’s “Live And Let Die”. I mean – how on Earth?.. But it’s the sort of film where the director has enough sense and taste to make everything work.
This is first and foremost a big swindle story that is enhanced by Russell’s passionate directing. It all starts as a beautiful romance with an edge. Two unlikely people (played by Amy Adams and Christian Bale) from the 70’s fall in love over a jazz record, dance inside a dry cleaning store and start a business of rather dubious nature. Enter an F.B.I. officer (Bradley Cooper) who wants to be a Napoleon and eradicate all crime in Atlantic City with the help of these two cons-cum-lovers. It’s an unlikely partnership, it’s a matter of who has bigger balls and larger vision, and it becomes a real riot on screen. American Hustle is stylistically confusing, but in a good way. It’s something of a gangster movie with elements of drama, screwball comedy and God knows what else. It’s the diversity, and the diversity is never less than charming.
But however witty the lines (that Picasso one everyone is quoting deserves to be a perennial), however breathtaking the soundtrack (Roy Wood, Steely Dan, even goddamn America sounds great here), however smart the dialogues (the ice fishing bits are a genius touch), however intriguing the plot (I certainly enjoyed the corrupt Boardwalk Empire angle), it really is about the acting. Not individual people pulling off great scenes; American Hustle is primarily an ensemble piece.
And it is such a joy to watch. Jennifer Lawrence has the most straightforward part (Bale’s hysterical wife), and she is both hilarious and convincing. Bradley Cooper is a brilliant mixture of insecurity and pathological self-belief. Amy Adams and Christian Bale could be two of the greatest actors of this generation, so what can you really say? There’s also an effective appearance of Robert de Niro who should probably stick to David O. Russell’s films. The other stuff he does these days is god-awful.
Plus, the clothes! The hairstyles! Truly a wild, gutsy concoction of a film. It moved me and made me laugh with tears in my eyes. Quite simply, if you don’t like American Hustle, what kind of a film fan are you? It could be this year’s Holy Motors. A more mainstream, better behaved one, and almost as brilliant. I’d give it the Best Picture Oscar, just for the hell of it.