David O. Russell’s American Hustle is a con plot, wrapped in a couple love triangles and then further complicated by the mob. Honestly, the whole point A to point B can get a little confusing, but the film easily keeps a captive audience on board every moment due to fantastic performances by great actors who breathe amazing life and quirk into their characters.
First off, we have Irving (Christian Bale). He’s the epicenter, the main con man, experienced and damn good at what he does. After years of running multiple scams on his own, he meets Sydney (Amy Adams). She is up for the adventure and thrill of a good con and brings her own touch to a new phony lone business. She and Irving begin a passionate relationship, even though he is already married. His wife, Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence) is an unpredictable woman with a young son who spends her time tanning, painting her nails and doing other frivolous things. She knows Irving is having an affair, the two women just haven’t met, yet.
When Irving and Sydney’s bogus loans are busted by an FBI agent, Richie (Bradley Cooper), he makes a deal to release them if they help him arrest a few politicians. Richie wants to entrap the mayor of Camden, New Jersey, Politio (Jeremy Renner). Irving brings in a friend to pose as a Sheikh looking for potential investments in America, specifically with Polito. But Richie’s over-eagerness nearly screws up the whole deal. Thankfully, he has Irving and Sydney to help him out, but little does Richie realize that they are playing him, while Sydney is seducing him.
As Politio is making friends with a phony Sheikh and going out to dinner with Irving and his wife, Irving starts to have second thoughts about the whole operation. It becomes a moral dilemma for him, seeing that Politio really is a nice family man just trying to make his city better. And when Irving finds himself getting involved in the mob, and his wife starts talking too much, things might get out of control.
There is so much to enjoy about this film even if a con plot doesn’t sound like your cup of tea. Each actor brings charm and has their own great moments, including Louis C.K. in a great minor role as Richie’s boss. Though they may not be truly good guys, each character is so charismatic that you can’t help but love them, even be on their side to some extent. If you’re a fan of late 70s fashion, the wardrobes and hairstyles will delight. It’s rather hilarious to see Amy Adams dancing at a disco, Bradley Cooper in curlers and Christian Bale meticulously perfect his strange comb-over.
American Hustle is tied with Gravity for receiving the most Oscar nominations this year, a total of ten. Among them are Best Picture, costume design, film editing, production design and original screenplay. David O. Russell received his second consecutive nomination for best director. And among the actors, Christian Bale for lead actor, Amy Adams for lead actress, Bradley Cooper for supporting actor and Jennifer Lawrence for supporting actress. It is not often a film lands nominations in each acting category, but this film sure deserves it.
My personal favorite scene really has nothing to do with the whole plot, but is just a hilarious moment with Irving’s ditzy wife using an early microwave, or as they call it, the science oven. We see her in the kitchen, talking to herself in a mocking voice about how she was warned not to put any metal in the science oven. Psh, what’s the harm right? Then she tosses in something in aluminum foil, and boom, you know what happens. But her breezy, whatever attitude suddenly replaced by instructing her son to get the other fire extinguisher is so flawless and hilarious, I can’t let it go. If Jennifer Lawrence wins her second Oscar for American Hustle, it will be because she blew up the science oven.
“Bring something into this house that’s gonna take all the nutrition out of our food and then light our house on fire? Thank God for me.”