By: Alex Spindler
Much like his previous works, director David O. Russell’s new drama, “American Hustle,” blends Jersey melodrama with relationship dysfunction.
Set in the late 1970s, “Hustle” follows swindlers Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) and Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) as they attempt to bribe New Jersey mayor Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner). FBI agent Richie Di Maso (Bradley Cooper) aids the pack in an intriguing dramedy packed with deception, betrayal and even a stray gut-busting guffaw.
Despite the critical acclaim given for the film’s many facets, “American Hustle” simply didn’t crackle as expected.
Slow to start with a sludgy screenplay, the exposition takes a healthy 20 minutes before it sets the tone of promiscuous sex and an onslaught of F-bombs. The film does manage to blend familial violence with hilarity in a stroke of brilliance.
This may in fact be Russell’s cornerstone to cinematic success with other works like “The Fighter” and “Silver Linings Playbook” setting the precedent. Russell took extra precaution to hairspray every up-do and to infuse every bellbottom with a true 70s flair.
Now, what the film lacks in a wholly-coherent plot, it makes up for that with a spellbinding ensemble.
Adams especially stood out, delivering what is simply an arresting performance that’s capable of overshadowing fellow actors Bale, Renner and even legend Robert De Niro.
However, even her onscreen sparkle couldn’t hold back Jennifer Lawrence, who portrays Bale’s incessant, alcoholic wife, Rosalyn. Lawrence once again proves that her acting chops are the real deal and scores with every line. Her performance in the film steals the show.
Not only does she function as the true comic relief, but her vodka- induced bluntness exposes the other characters’ ridiculous traits in another Oscar-worthy, bravura performance.
Gritty, raw and moving, Lawrence and the rest of the ensemble elevate the material of the film from passable to noticeable. Though paltry in comparison to some of Russell’s other critical raves, “Hustle” is worth the money.