It’s time to do the (American) hustle: This Friday, director David O. Russell’s latest star-studded movie, the much-anticipated “American Hustle,” dances into theaters. Russell’s dependable ensemble have all worked with him on previous projects to great result: Amy Adams and Christian Bale in “The Fighter” and Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence in “Silver Linings Playbook.” “Silver Linings” snagged eight Oscar nominations, including Best Director, winning one (Best Actress for Lawrence) and “The Fighter” got seven nominations (Russell again for Best Director) and two wins (Best Supporting Actor for Bale and Best Supporting Actress for Melissa Leo).
All this is to say: Heavy is the head that wears the awards-laden crown. Expectations are high for “American Hustle,” and it’s coming in the heat of the holiday season, when audiences are eager to head to the movies and evaluate awards contenders.
A fictionalized version of the real-world ABSCAM FBI sting operation, there’s plenty of spectacle on offer in “Hustle”: ’70s costumes (with the requisite eye-popping cleavage), thick Jersey accents and cameos galore. The real question is whether all the elements work together to meet audiences’ high expectations.
Read on for a sampling of “American Hustle” reviews.
The Star Cast Shines
“Bale — that freak of acting nature who can become anyone at a moment’s notice — is sad, funny and riveting. Adams is simultaneously kittenish and craven. Cooper is terrific as a goofball dying to be taken seriously, while lusting after Adams’ female trickster. Lawrence, in just a few scenes, captures the frowsy, frisky era’s slovenly undercurrent. Renner, a newcomer to Russell’s movies, adds a crucial layer of slightly crooked conscience.” — Joe Neumaier, New York Daily News
A Heightened Reality
“Russell has both simplified and juiced a tale that is already close to preposterous; he has created a fantasia told from the point of view of two con artists, a man and a woman. Not just the crooks but virtually everyone in the movie seems slightly crazed by ambition. The one person who’s ordinary in temperament, an F.B.I. supervisor played by Louis C.K., could be a member of a different species. We seem to have stepped into the magical sphere — Shakespeare rules over it and Ernst Lubitsch and Preston Sturges are denizens — where profound human foolishness becomes a form of grace.” — David Denby, The New Yorker
Lawrence Steals the Show
“The film’s stealth weapon, however, is Lawrence. Hot off ‘The Hunger Games: Catching Fire,’ she steals every scene in her limited screen time. Whether blithely blowing up a microwave or lip-syncing to ‘Live and Let Die’ while furiously doing some housecleaning, Rosalyn is dangerously off-kilter but also shrewd; she’s both kitten and tigress. Crowned by an updo of cascading curls, she’s a sublime modern take on a quintessential screwball figure, never at fault in her own mind no matter how badly she blunders. Her ladies-room confrontation with Sydney is among the film’s high points.” — David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter
Get Ready To Think Deep Thoughts
“The other thread in the film, although not quite as successful, is a discussion of authenticity. If people believe what they want to believe, what’s to say you aren’t who you present yourself as? Why can’t Michael Pena wear a white robe and pass himself off as an Arab sheik?” — Jordan Hoffman, ScreenCrush
The Clothes Make the Movie
“Most of “American Hustle” puts a premium on style and sparkle over substance. At least it can deliver on that (and in spades), as the time period of the film essentially serves as its own character, and one that does not disappoint in the slightest — Michael Wilkinson’s costume designs, Judy Becker’s overall production design, and the entire coterie of hair stylists and make-up artists are all near-revelatory and exceedingly well-executed. “American Hustle” has plenty to recommend it for entertainment value alone, but if audiences are simply looking for the best-outfitted film of the year, the buck very firmly stops here.” — Kate Erbland, Film.com
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