American Hustle is one of those movies that has an effect on you while you’re watching the movie, but leaves little lasting impression. It’s definitely an exercise in director David O. Russell‘s best and worst habits, all at the same time. For one thing, the film has absolutely no focus in the first half, meandering around in random voice-over back stories, and giving us spurts of humor in an otherwise drab movie. But even then, the performances are so strong and the style so jazzy that you can’t help but pay attention. Is that a good thing or bad thing?
Russell’s a director that’s always put character and actors above story and plot, and it’s no different here. He’s just lucky that he has such a fantastic cast of actors to pull off such an inherently messy movie. Honestly, the first half an hour had me debating whether I wanted to walk out of the movie, but I stayed, mostly because I couldn’t get enough of the 70s outfits and 70s hair. But boy, that last ten minutes fixes all the film’s flaws and then some, it packs such a punch.
And of course, the performances are all extremely deserving of the buzz they’re getting. In this reviewer’s humble opinion, Bradley Cooper steals the show. Without a doubt, he’s the most lively part of this movie, managing to teeter from crazy and obsessed to calm and collected without making his character a caricature.
Christian Bale is also suitably strong, with a lot of underlying turmoil playing underneath his skin despite some of the more ridiculous moments his character has to pull off.
Jeremy Renner unfortunately doesn’t have too much to do, although the little he has, he does extremely well. Surprisingly, I felt the weak links were the actresses. Jennifer Lawrence is spectacular in almost everything she does, but her performance here is all in the smaller moments. She has a lot of ‘big’ funny moments, but a lot of them come across as very over-acted. But it’s the smaller moments where you can really see the character’s turmoil. Is she deserving of all the awards buzz? Eh, it’s Jennifer Lawrence, so I’ll say yes.
Amy Adams is also hit or miss, but a large part of that has to do with the weird British accent she’s forced to put on, which actually distracts instead of adds to her character.
Anyway, American Hustle is worth it if you enjoy humor and great performances, but if you’re looking for something more substantial in your plot, don’t bother.