Directed by: David O. Russell
Written by: Eric Warren Singer & David O. Russell
Starring: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Renner, Michael Peña, Elisabeth Röhm & Louis C.K
Oscar Nominations: 10
Best Picture, Directing (David O. Russell), Actor in a Leading Role (Christian Bale,) Actor in a Supporting Role (Bradley Cooper), Actress in a Leading Role (Amy Adams), Actress in a Supporting Role (Jennifer Lawrence), Writing – Original Screenplay (Eric Warren Singer & David O. Russell), Costume Design, Film Editing & Production Design.
“You’re nothing to me until you’re everything.”
In trying to be everything (a heist, a caper, a comedy, a true-life story, a performer’s showcase, a screwball, a character study), American Hustle ends up being — not nothing — but definitely less than the sum of its parts. The performances, from Bale’s oily conman to Adams’ knowing ingenue, from Cooper’s tightly wound nut job to Lawrence’s spritely downcast wife, are all fascinating and whenever a scene centers on one or two (Adams & Cooper at Studio 54, Lawrence cleaning her apartment) the film is a screwball comedy keyed up the ways we deceive and are deceived. In less chaotically-inclined hands, the spastic tonal shifts and arbitrary time-jumps would serve this theme well. But O. Russell, never one to waste a good ensemble on an airtight plot or a straight-forward genre formula, ends up creating a film that’s intentionally unwieldy, one that works at the micro-level and its attendant close ups (Lawrence and her mascara-tinted eyes, Bale’s horrid hair-piece) but feels stilted as a whole. Adams alone, in my view, manages to marry the various tones and genre-send ups of O. Russell’s film. The film may be bursting at the seams but Adams’ coolly collected performance as “Lady Edith” is a perfectly calibrated mess of contradictions, an endless Rubik’s cube of deceptions that can turn a wobbly accent into a sexual weapon and find catharsis only in a bathroom stall, that finds everything in the various nothings and nobodies around her. B-