a, Arts & Entertainment, Film and TV

Con-artist comedy is no fraud

Let’s go back to the late ‘70s with American Hustle, where the costumes are glamorous, the hair fake, and the cleavage exposed. Director David O. Russell comes back after last year’s hit Silver Linings Playbook with a comedy that employs the same sharp humour.

Punctuated by flashbacks and voice-overs, we follow the story of a scam orchestrated by the FBI and their devoted but clumsy agent Richie Di Maso (Bradley Cooper), helped by two ‘professional’ scammers, Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) and Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams), in exchange for immunity. Everything seems to work out fine until Irving’s flamboyant and hilarious wife (Jennifer Lawrence), comes to “hustle” the operation. Initially confusing, the movie almost lost me; but once Lawrence jumps in, it turns into an absolute delight.

Russell presents an original and extremely humorous take on the tired ‘scammers vs. suckers’ plotline. He allows the writing and acting to shine alongside the costumes, cinematography and musical score. Straightforward and subtly amusing, the plot scenarios permit the actors great flexibility, which facilitates more natural and playful acting.

Cooper—embodying the lovable but inexperienced agent—is ridiculously funny, while Adams manages to be both fierce and sensible in her interpretation of the passionate Prosser. Jeremy Renner, charming as always, successfully portrays the FBI’s victim, and surprisingly makes the audience root for him at the end. However, it is the on-screen couple of Bale and Lawrence who lead the movie ruthlessly and brilliantly. Bale shows once again how he can transform his body for a role and deliver an amazing performance as the head of the operation. Lawrence shines as the doll-like, foolish, and egocentric wife with her candid and poignant acting. I was afraid she would fade in a supporting role but she manages to capture our attention in all her scenes. We also enjoy memorable appearances from Louis C.K and Robert De Niro.

Plunging into the colourful years of the seventies dazzles the eyes and invigorates the film. The shining costumes, the cultivated hairstyles, and the scandalous dance moves effectively transport us into this era. The score perfectly matches the movie and flows gently with the action, carrying us into its euphoria. We got a taste of it in the film’s trailer with Led Zeppelin’s “Good Times Bad Times,” and more ‘70s hits follow.

The movie becomes a mausoleum of those past years, pleasing our sense of sight and sound. The camera movements follow the rhythm of the music and the action, transforming the movie into an endless dance. Its numerous pans, tilts, and zooms compose and accelerate the pace and we follow it deliberately and with honest enjoyment. The cinematography controls the image, guides us throughout the movie, and is brilliantly mastered by the director to convey a fun and exciting experience. Russell explores and pleases our senses, provoking both laughter and cringes.

American Hustle, endowed with an irreproachable cast, makes real—and nowadays rare—on-screen magic. It was no surprise that the film took home the Golden Globe award for Best Motion Picture, musical or comedy, or that Adams won in the actress category.  American Hustle should take you on an entertaining ride—and that sure is no scam.

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