When your screenplay is yet to be produced and it is named American Bullshit, you know it is only a matter of time before curiosity sparks and there is a very dark toned comedy to be made. Combining the dark subject matter with the style of the 70's big hair, open front dress and wild suits you create a winning combination.
Irving Rosenfeld along with his partner Sydney Prosser are con-artists taking money from people and selling fake art. They are brought into a wild scheme when FBI agent Rich DiMaso wants to bring down some government officials. Richie gets himself in over his head and soon the three of them are scrambling to find a way out.
Stylish,smart and wildly sophisticated, American Hustle is such a fun film. As it develops and you find yourself entangled in the messes of each elaborate scheme, there is an engrossing energy that sweeps over you. During the first act, you seem lost, wanting them film to find itself and part way through the second act it does find its stride and not a moment too late. Despite the minor flaw during the first act, it quickly corrects itself and sets up a fantastic final act filled with double crossing and manipulation.
David O. Russell combines the look and feel of the 70's era with a fictionalized throwback to a scandal that actually took place, even taking time out to remind us that some of the events transpiring during said film did in fact happen. The surprising elements of comedy are what kept this film moving at a high frequency, taking sudden tonal shifts in order to accurately depict the true nature of the situation at hand. Russell is a hard hitting film maker, borrowing his impeccable style from old Scorsese gangster pictures and paying homage to some of the best works of all time. Russell put his film in good hands with the chameleon Christian Bale taking on the lead role, gaining 40 pounds and slouching so bad he actually herniated two discs in his back. His comb-over is ridiculous, his suits loud and his personality one of a kind. Adams compliments him just perfectly, wearing open front dresses and screaming seductive right from the beginning. Cooper is the wild card of the film, his character the one desperately trying to gain himself a name amongst his peers. Cooper is often wild and insane, his hair only the beginning of the ridiculousness.
All of these actors gave off fine performances, but there was one stand out performance that knocked them all out of the park. Jennifer Lawrence was by far the best part of the film, her manipulative Rosalyn keeping Irving at arms length. She was devilish, her performance very much accentuated by her bold accent and her characters vixen like qualities made her an absolute treat. If this performance does not score Lawrence back to back Academy Award wins, someone was not paying attention to how absolutely phenomenal she looked and how engaging each and every scene she was in ended up being. She gave the film a sense of tension when things were already heating up. She never knew when to stop, her indulgence getting the best of her. Such a deep and game changing character, and for an actress as young as Lawrence to walk in and steal the spot light, it such a fun thing to see. At just 23 years of age to watch her perform on a such a high level was one of the most delightful moments of film in a long time. This girl is going to be on that stage accepting awards year after year if she keeps giving performances like this one.
American Hustle is one of those films that has moments of pure excitement, full of richly timed dark witted comedy, and moments of pure intensity, highlighted by the every growing sense that somewhere things wouldn't turn out alright for everyone involved. It opts for a more comedic and traditional ending, bringing closure to each one of these characters. It kind of takes away from the mystical allure this film carried through-out, almost ruining the high stakes atmosphere that helped elevate the second act. At times without such invigorating style and lavish 70's feel, it would have been just another modern film. It's quite the spectacle when the era in which the film takes place can also ultimately become the saving grace of the film. Perhaps it is because this film actual scandal took place during the same era in which the film is set, but something about the 70's era, the music, the lights, the sounds, the characters it all just looked good, like a couple wearing a luxurious dress and a stylish tuxedo to the gala.