Dr. Donna Copeland’s




American Hustle

 Oscar nominated writer/director David O. Russell has become the auteur that actors gravitate towards. His last two films won Oscars for Jennifer Lawrence, Christian Bale and Melissa Leo not to mention the other nominations they incurred. He likes working with the same dependable cast. It’s no secret that Russell who as gotten very close a few times, wants to win an Oscar, but his latest American Hustle seems more obviously desperate and lacks the energy of The Fighter or Silver Linings Playbook. It’s clever, smart enough, but all the performances, minus Lawrence, are not in the typical prestigious realm we have grown accustom to.

 In the late 70’s, partners and lovers Irving Rosenfeld (Bale) Sydney Prosser (Adams) have just gotten busted by the Feds for their numerous and elaborate loan and fake art schemes. Forced to work with and set up other con-artists, mobsters and corrupt New Jersey politicians; Richie Dimaso (Cooper)  creates an elaborate plan to reel in popular mayor Carmine Polito (Renner). Irving with his elaborate comb over and robust waste line is torn between his firecracker wife (Lawrence) and Sydney who might be playing everyone.

 It can’t just be about colorful, inventive characters, it’s also about who those people are underneath and their motives. Lawrence who won best actress last year for Silver Linings Playbook will have the highest grossing film of 2013 and very likely receive another nomination for her wildly enjoyable supporting turn here. Lawrence plays dumb for the first time in her career of strong women and demonstrates she is good at that also. Bale, Cooper and Adams are all fine here but all have given far better performances, even in other films this year. It’s Lawrence and her “science oven” that you will remember from American Hustle.

 More often than not, American Hustle goes for the obnoxious over the clever (as we watch a five minute scene showcasing the comb over). Russell creates a believable 70’s world with hair, clothes and ambition. What I felt he lacked here was the energy, there are points in the film (which feels entirely too stretch out for the storyline) were it seems as if Russell is unable to cut into what the scene is actually trying to convey and it just spins. After Lawrence makes her first appearance she is the only energy we look forward to. It won’t leave tears in your eyes like The Fighter or Silver Linings Playbook, and out of desperation just switched from the drama category to comedy in better hopes of snagging something at the Golden Globes.

 Final Thought – Russell loses his momentum while Lawrence steals the show.

 Grade C+

By: Dustin Chase

What a tangled web of cons and deceits David O. Russell has concocted!  When the story begins, it appears that it will be a tale of two con artists—an unlikely pair, Irving (Bale) gone to pot literally, and Sydney (Adams) a young sexy redhead.  But when Bradley Cooper with the permed hair enters as FBI agent DiMaso, things get much, much more complicated and entertaining.  And still more when the Mayor of Trenton, N.J., and some of the mob become involved, one of whom is played by Robert De Niro.  We only learn about Irving’s wife Rosalyn (Lawrence) after we’re well into the story.  

 Obviously, the cast is huge, but it’s a good ensemble, and Bale, Adams, Cooper, and Lawrence are all at the top of their game.  Russell has a way of throwing in little motifs that add to the fun, and in this case, it’s the hair-dos.  The film opens with Bale painstakingly coifing his atrocious hairpiece, ending with not just a comb-over, but one with glue to make it stick.  I’ve mentioned Cooper’s curls, and Lawrence has such a mess of blonde hair coiled up around her head I barely recognized her.  Most of the time, Adams’ hair is lovely and flowing, but she does have giant curlers part of the time, and at another time, a kinky do parted in the middle.

Oh, yes, and Renner as the mayor has a huge pompadour.  I see it took seven hair stylists and wig makers to achieve these effects.

 The story is drawn from an actual FBI sting called Abscam in the late 1970’s, when congressmen and other politicians were caught for taking bribes. At that time, the FBI had the help of a convicted con artist in getting their evidence.  The film story goes along expected lines, with FBI agent DiMaso wanting to make a name for himself with highly visible arrests; however, unexpected alliances and attractions occur, which complicate matters.  There is supposed to be a sting, but it is not clear at all that it will ever happen as planned.  The movie’s strength is in keeping everyone guessing.

 Much could be said about Danny Elfman’s music, which plays songs having a direct relationship to the action on screen, and sometime the actors are singing along, making it even more effective.

Grade:  A-

By:  Donna R. Copeland