Review: American Hustle (2013)

My housemates and I have decided to watch all the films nominated for best picture at this year’s Oscars for a bit of fun. Every year during Oscars season, I like to pick which films/actors/departments should win their respective categories based on the results of the Golden Globes and SAG awards, but I’ve never made the effort to actually watch them.

We’re meant to watch the films together but since we are rarely home at the same time, it’s hard to coordinate. My housemates have already seen Blue Jasmine, which is not nominated for best picture but is nominated in other categories. My friend Emma and I were overdue for a catch up so we decided to watch American Hustle. We’re both BIG Jennifer Lawrence fans and I have a devastating crush on Jeremy Renner. It’s so random I can’t explain it. I guess he has a bit of a tough, smouldering handsomeness. And biceps. Ahem.

American Hustle is about a pair of con artists, Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) and Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams), who are forced to work with ambitious cop Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper), to avoid jail time for loan scams. They try to take down politicians involved in criminality by conning the well-loved mayor of New Jersey Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner. And yes, even with that creepy Elvis-inspired wig, the man’s still a fox) but their operation gets out of control.

Depending on how you view American Hustle, it’s either an enjoyable comedy that’s derivative of Ocean’s 11, or a lacklustre homage to Scorsese’s complex gangster films. It really wants to be clever but ends up being overly elaborate, making it hard to follow at times. What really lets it down is it lacks that risk factor akin to heist films. You just know Irving and Sydney will manage to survive at the end.

With a cast of Oscar-nominated actors, it’s no surprise the acting is pretty superb. Both Bale and Adams played their characters with ease. Cooper was extremely unlikeable as DiMaso, which I guess was the point. Renner executed Carmine Polito’s sincerity with vulnerability and finesse. It was only afterwards I realised this is the first time I’ve seen him play someone that’s not an intense, masculine character with a military background. I have to admit though, as much as I love Jennifer Lawrence, I felt she was miscast. Lawrence plays Rosalyn, Irving’s wife, who manipulates him to stay with her. Rosalyn is showy and ridiculous to hide her loneliness, and craves love and attention. I felt Lawrence was unable to give Rosalyn that vulnerability, and tended to ham up her more flamboyant characteristics.

There is so much buzz around if this film will win any Oscars, especially the acting and directing awards. I personally don’t think it will, but I hope American Hustle’s production design and hair and make-up teams win accolades for their amazing work. I love how excessive they were with the wigs and the costumes: so many plunging necklines, perms and bad hair, accentuated with velvet, tweed and gold. It’s all very tactile. And so much brown.

So, to watch American Hustle or not? I’d say go for it. It’s a fun film but it’s got its problems (like most films). The opening scene of Irving trying to glue his toupee to his scalp perfectly sums up the entirety of the film: it’s funny, entertaining, but unnecessarily elaborate, ultimately lacking the substance and layers of real hair.

What did you think of American Hustle? Who are your picks for the Oscars?

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2 thoughts on “Review: American Hustle (2013)

  1. The hair!

    I had the chance to watch on the big screen too. I was really wow’d by the transformation done by Christian Bale, his character was so slimey. I kind of like JLaw’s flamboyant character, she was a diva and purely materialistic and narcissistic, but she was funny to watch (maybe she was the comic relief) Even now I’m thinking about her performance and I cannot help but chuckle.

    David O’Russell’s vision kind lacked the punch that you find in Ocean’s Eleven. storyline has lost its momentum and was pretty much saved by the calibre of stars.

    This year’s Oscar has a lot of interesting contenders. I just watched Her recently and loved it.
    I did my own list and watching them too: http://adollarstory.wordpress.com/2014/01/05/10-films-to-be-excited-about/

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