Wednesday, January 8, 2014
AMERICAN HUSTLE (2013)
Everyone wants something. And in director David O. Russell’s bracing new comedy everyone will go to great and often unethical lengths to get it. More than money, con man Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) wants dignity and respect, if his careful coiffure speaks true. His lover and partner Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) presents herself to marks as a British financier and wants to escape who she was or at least reinvent her past. This criminal romance is further complicated by Irving’s marriage of inconvenience to the spitfire Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence) who wants, against all indication, stability for herself and her young son. Irving and Sydney coast along comfortably until they try to scam FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper), who wants promotion and glory. In lieu of prosecution Richie convinces the couple to use their skills to nab bigger fish. His initial target is well-intentioned New Jersey mayor Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner), who wants to foster local economic growth for his constituents but is not above bribery to do so. They enlist Paco Hernandez (Michael Peña) to pose as Sheik Abdullah who plans to invest in a high-class hotel but requires favors from high-level politicians to facilitate this. When the mob takes an interest in the sham venture, Richie presses the con deep into dangerous territory. Bale has never been this touching and funny, while Adams reveals Sydney’s vulnerability beneath her tough veneer. Cooper is all misguided ambition and manic desperation, while Renner projects basic decency and a reluctant pragmatism. Meanwhile a too-young Lawrence and a nicely understated Louis C.K. (as Richie’s put upon supervisor) nearly steal the movie. Eric Warren Singer and Russell based their script very loosely on the Abscam sting circa 1978, but Russell is less concerned with the mechanics of the operation than with the treacherous waters of the human heart. While there are ample crosses and double-crosses, twists and betrayals, Russell is a generous enough filmmaker to love the player (or hustler, if you will) and the game.