American Hustle: David O. Russell Does It Again

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AMERICAN-HISTLEPhoto: Courtesy of Columbia Pictures.
When a movie opens with an elaborate comb-over and a hairy beer belly, you know you’re in for something…interesting.

American Hustle completes director David O. Russell’s trilogy of films illustrating struggle, defeat, and re-invention, specifically his. Before The Fighter, Russell was considered the enfant terrible Hollywood directors. After on-set fights with actors including George Clooney (Three Kings) and Lily Tomlin (I Heart Huckabees), he was down-and-out. That was, of course, until Mark Wahlberg came around and saved the day — as one does — suggesting that Russell take on the director role for The Fighter. Of course, that film was such a critical success that it consequently erased much of his murky past.

Then came Silver Linings Playbook, and now, he's pulled out the best to create the all-star team for his big finish: American Hustle. Amy Adams (The Fighter), Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook), Robert De Niro (Silver Linings Playbook), Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook), and Christian Bale (The Fighter) make up this vivacious cast, rounded out by a fresh face, Jeremy Renner.

American Hustle, partially based on the ABSCAM scandal of the '70s, is about two con artists (Adams and Bale) — also lovers — who are blackmailed by an FBI agent (Cooper) into helping him arrest a bunch of mobsters. The FBI agent, Richie, gets a little excited and finds himself in over his head when trying to bring down the Mayor of New Jersey, played by Renner.
AMERICAN-HUSTLE_01Photo: Courtesy of Columbia Pictures.
You will see a lot of similarities between some of the characters and their previous Russell roles. Lawrence plays a housewife, but with the same blunt and tough tone that she took on in Silver Linings. Cooper’s character is…well…crazy. Sound familiar? Then we have Adams, who seems sweet and innocent, but is, deep down, a tough girl capable of causing a lot of harm, similar to her character in The Fighter.

Cooper steals the show. He seamlessly transitions from a tough cop to a big mess by getting so amped up that his character eventually just explodes. While the other performances are outstanding, Cooper dazzles the audience with his ability to reach unimaginable levels of neuroticism. (Oh, and his perm is pretty flawless.)

Lawrence’s outlandish, blunt affectations are starting to get a bit old, but she still had all the funny lines in this film, and delivered them to near perfection. But, it was the love between shlumpy Irving (Bale) and perfect Sydney (Adams) that brought us back to reality. The audience can get a bit lost between the screaming, the stealing, the drinking, and the gorgeous and flashy costumes. But, then you see the looks of love, pain, and desire exchanged between our two crooks, and you're sold. After this film, the audience might be ready to quit their jobs and become con artists. Really, sign us up if it comes with a love like that. Plus, Sydney’s wardrobe is better than any closet we could dream of.

Speaking of costumes — we’ve never been more obsessed with the '70s than now. Forget bellbottoms and flower power; costume designer Michael Wilkinson steers the plot with vintage pieces by power designers like Halston and DVF. If you didn’t think costumes could tell a story, you will think differently when you see Cooper ditch his uniform and throw on a black suit, unbuttoned white shirt, with a scarf ever-so-casually draped around his neck. With that one outfit, everything changes. We’ve never been so inspired by a man’s clothing.

The bottom line is that, like Russell’s last two films, American Hustle left us feeling inspired. Inspired to rummage through vintage stores for sequined gowns, possibly start conning (kidding!), and maybe have an affair — only with someone we absolutely adored, of course. God only knows what Russell’s next film will entail, but we have an inkling of who might star in it…