I’ve tried to see as many nominated films as I can before the Academy Awards take place on March 2nd and so far I’ve reviewed Blue Jasmine, August: Osage County, and Dallas Buyer’s Club. I haven’t yet managed to see Twelve Years A Slave, but I have seen Gravity – I just didn’t review it as it was everywhere. (I did love it though, everything from the performances and cinematography to the score and the special effects. It’s a disaster movie in space; what more could you want?!) Today it’s the turn of American Hustle; the only Oscar nominated movie that I’ve seen twice which should tell you how much I liked it.
American Hustle is the true story of the ABSCAM sting operation run by the FBI in the late 70s and early 80s to investigate public corruption in New Jersey. Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) and Sidney Prosser (Amy Adams) are two romantically involved con artists who have been caught by FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper). DiMaso promises he won’t prosecute them if they help him to get additional arrests and so, having no choice, the two agree. To add further complication, Irving is already married to Roslyn (Jennifer Lawrence), a bored ditzy young woman who likes to create trouble (e.g. regularly starting accidental fires in the kitchen) to get attention.
American Hustle has all the ingredients of a thriller – wire-taps, briefcases of cash, Robert De Niro as a menacing mobster – but the fact that this is a comedy is evident from the opening scene. Christian Bale stands in front of a hotel mirror – paunchy and sweaty, large Nana Mouskouri-esque glasses obscuring his face - and spends ages meticulously spraying and backcombing and coaxing his thinning hair and hairpiece into an elaborate and completely ineffective combover. There are several scenes like this, where the filmmakers are clearly having a laugh at the expense of their subjects, but the ABSCAM operation was comically absurd – a real-life crime caper – and I think the film was note perfect.
This movie is a romp; it’s got a smart script and great sense of humour, the main cast give uniformly excellent performances, and the costuming is perfect (Amy Adam’s wardrobe in particular was sexy 70s designer to die for). It’s lighter in tone than many of the other contenders and so it’s possible that it may get overlooked in favour of the more heavyweight nominees. Perhaps a more “worthy” film will garner the awards next week, but American Hustle is one I know I’ll watch again in the future and enjoy every time.