Saturday, January 11, 2014

"American Hustle" (2013) - Movie Review

The opening scene of “American Hustle” goes for the jugular to stun the viewers to say something blunt despite the stupidity of the character’s desperate attempt to hide his loss of hair. That is to not entirely judge the characters impulsively. Well, they are what they appear to be but there is an iota of goodness in some of them. The man in the opening scene is Christian Bale as Irving Rosefield, a con artist trying the worst attempt to hide his baldness. From there it goes to Bradley Cooper’s FBI Agent Richie DiMaso, another desperate man with a bad hairdo. In between them is the dazzling Amy Adams as Sydney Prosser. If you think that this David O. Russell’s venture draws its circle of a story from purely these three as its center, then the performance surprises will keep you entertained more than you could expect.

On the surface and to certain inches below “American Hustle” is a con film but the niche of it is the balance of actors in their performances. The star power in each scene dismantles into the souls of these characters. There is never a second you begin to ponder the gravity each actors carry that are butting heads. The sense of the story encapsulates the viewers and the essence of the performances are sunk in as the belief of each of the actors in their roles with unadulterated confidence. It makes the movie not alone a fun ride but to appreciate the art of acting.

The late 70s and early 80s backdrop is not a prop rather a statement. The flashy fashion sense is over the top to put it mildly. It is almost a kind warning to the people who arrive at Irving and Sydney’s loan scam. If you are desperate to trust these people, then you cannot be more doomed than the 5000$ that will be lost with the hopes of getting a loan. Irving who is playing way beyond his league starting from being the lover of the stunning Sydney who poses as the UK high class lady with thorough connections, becomes the only best intentioned person. Christian Bale of course has made it his MO to lose and gain pounds for his role but out here he gains pounds but precisely putting a paunch. Then tops it off by donning a hairdo that makes Anton Chigurh in “No Country for Old Men” turn back. Bale is the person whom we can see as enjoying the roles he takes upon. There is a clear evidence when he takes up a part. Even the saddest of his characters have the tinge of the Bale’s happiness emanating in subtle senses. Here the moments Irving is at peace are short lived and the empathy we begin to create for this character tells the conviction of Bale’s performance.

Yet, the film is robbed beyond Christian Bale’s hardworks along with Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper and Jeremy Reven by the young Jennifer Lawrence. She is the gorgeous but wonderfully annoying Rosalyn. She is married to Irving though the love has long gone and the manipulation is sky high through her son. The son Irving graciously adopted and loves. Irving wants to leave her but cares deeply for the kid. Lawrence’s involvement in the film comes later as Irving begins to befriend the Mayor Carmine Polito (Jeremy Rennder) of New Jersey and his wife Dolly (Elisabeth Hohm). Lawrence’s Rosalyn shows off as the beauty who is stupid but as she begins to play her emotions through actions, the deviousness gnaws through the brain of the viewers on this vicious woman. And while that is happening, you begin to laugh on this carefully balanced act of innocence and wickedness. Her Rosalyn can get away with anything and Lawrence just scares the heck out of everyone and then makes us laugh out loud simultaneously.

Amy Adams has been stepping up several cornerstone roles right from her early days unique performance in the indie flick “Junebug”. Her Sydney is as complicated as Rosalyn but her drive is by having a place for her identity. Irving provides that and she falls for him. She is thoroughly disgruntled by the fact that the man would never leave Rosalyn and the kid for her. She becomes to play against him when they get entrapped by Agent Richie DiMaso. Sydney and Richie have a thing which is a thing that is confusing as hell to call it as a thing. Bradley Cooper has been like Tom Cruise for me which is that the man tries hard, real hard but he needs less effort than Cruise to bring out his differentiation in his roles. He was enjoyable and convincing in David O. Russell’s “The Silver Linings Playbook” and here he makes the clueless but driven DiMaso both to be made fun of and have a soft corner. We laugh at him, enjoy his celebration and sympathetic on his cluelessness in finding love.

Jeremy Renner and Louis C.K were the surprise performances for this reviewer. While Renner has proven his capability in “The Hurt Locker”, he has only followed it up with action based roles. Here as the Italian origin Mayor of New Jersey, he digs in and stays in the man. When his character says he cares for his people, we believe him as a man of his words than a politician. Louis C.K is the favourite comedian of yours truly and when I saw him as the boss of Richie DiMaso, I thought it would be a small role but it develops into something seriously funny in non-Louis way and then adds a layer to their dynamics despite how bad it is.

In all this is director David O. Russell who co-wrote this with Eric Warren Singer handling the power house of actors. Without giving away much, there is a scene with Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Renner and a cameo appearance in one room and I was thinking how easily I forgot the stars behind them and looked out for the tense moment it created. Therein lies the skill of the director who composed this feature with the heaviest ensemble cast and make us not realize a moment of their star presence. “American Hustle” in its entirety is not a con film rather a performance film and it shines through every minute of it.

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