David O Russell once again joins forces with Christian Bale, Amy Adams, (The Fighter) Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Lining’s Playbook) for his latest film venture, American Hustle
This is a film of deception and redemption. The world O Russell Stylishly paints is surmised by its protagonist, Irving Rosenthal (Bale) who suggests that there is ‘no black and white, only grey’. Although given its glamorous 70’s setting perhaps no glitter and gold, only beige is more apt.
O Russell sets this these central tenets of the film in its opening sequence, as the dispassionate title page reads ‘Some of this actually happened’. To say anymore as to the reality of the events would spoil the illusory quality of the film, a great source of black humour, big hair and glitter.
The narrative centres itself on the set up of Mayor Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner) by Irving Rosenthal and Sydney Prosser (Adams) in order to be let off for their previous criminal activities as fraudsters. They are coerced into working with FBI agent Richie Dimaso (Bradley Cooper) in order to pursue white-collar crime, with the promise of 4 busts getting Irvine off the hook.
Groovy wardrobes, paisley velvet jackets and 70s pastiche clothing are set against the turbulent backdrop of Vietnam and Watergate in 1970s America. The glitz and glamour is augmented by an excellent soundtrack that includes: Duke Ellington, Sinatra and Bowie (to name but a few) of an excellent 70s pallet.
Excellent although a slightly uncharacteristic role for Bale, he plays the troubled art dealer and street hustler, Irvine Rosenthal. For a supposed enigmatic con man, he is often left bumbling and introspective, with his parodic and somewhat ridiculous hairpiece.
Amy Adams, scantily clad (throughout the film, actually) is excellent in the role of Rosenthal’s erudite lover and fellow schemer, the pseudo-English aristocrat, Sydney Prosser, or Lady Edith, depending on whom you believe. Her opposite number (both vie for Rosenthal’s affection) is beautiful Jennifer Lawrence who plays the clumsy (somewhat pyromaniac) wife of Irvine: Rosalyn Rosenthal. She plays the tragic diva that eventually unravels the FBI sting, by blubbing to her lover, all done whilst dancing (marigold clad) to live and Let die around her living room as the film reaches its climax.
Central tenet of the film is the love triangle of DiMaso/Irving Rosenthal/Adams. Initially Adams tries to allure DiMaso in order to coin favour and play him, yet as the film develops the relationship develops as she becomes jealous of Rosenthal’s earlier wife and how she impedes their relationship.
Highlights of the film include Bale’s corybantic comb over, seeing Bradley Cooper in rollers (he has an excellent perm) and a rousing rendition of Tom Jones’s Delilah by a smashed Bale and Renner. The reflective internal monologues of the characters show a clear nod of affection to Scorcesese’s Goodfellas, whilst the film is punctuated throughout with vignettes of hilarious black comedy.
The plays tumultuous climax of double and triple crossing is augmented superbly by Bale’s wily character, as he sets up DiMaso in order to save his friendship with Carmine Polito. It is a tale of Criminals with a heart of gold, comparable to Stepher Frears 1990’s film Grifters. The plays massive style marks another hit for O Russell, with 10 Oscar nominations well and truly deserved.
What did you think to American Hustle? Worthy of an Oscar or worthy of a bargain bin? Let us know in the comments section below