I'm sure that many people will disagree with me on the amount of praise that I allot to David O. Russell, but I must admit that I have definitely hopped aboard his bandwagon after two great successes in The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook. In fact, Silver Linings was third on my list of best dramas in 2012, which I'm sure Mr. Russell considers a fine honor. He probably tried to send me a thank you note or email or something, but I'm just so busy and hard to get in touch with! Anywho... After seeing the vague, star-studded trailer for American Hustle and hearing the ample amount of praise that has led to its impressive 94% on the Tomatometer, I had high hopes for a film that I knew very little about. However, my high hopes were dulled by iffy expectations. To me, the trailer was scattered and made little sense, but I powered on, clinging to the fact that Russell, Cooper, Bale, and Lawrence thought the film was worth making.
The thing that I LOVE about David O. Russell films is his ability to create dramatic films that feature some of the biggest laughs that you will find in any film of any kind. The Fighter was a great (true) story that featured great acting. Silver Linings Playbook was far from original, but the acting carried the film to an Oscar nomination. Unfortunately, the plot of American Hustle is not unique enough to carry the film by itself. Fortunately, like its predecessors, the acting carries the film farther than most any story could. If you saw Argo last year, you can understand how simply dramatic and nerve-wracking a spy/con film can be, and I promise that the unfolding of the plot, at the end of American Hustle, pales in comparison to many B-list PG-13 action flicks, much less the reigning Best Picture champion. This film is 100% carried by the great acting, which I will now take a moment to brag upon...
Much of the drama/comedy mix of a Russell film is only possible because of the great actors that he is able to recruit and pick out for perfect roles. Without the great acting of Lawrence, Cooper, Adams, and Bale, Silver Linings Playbook and The Fighter are just mediocre mental illness and boxing dramas with awkward comedy mixed in. Sticking with the same acting crew, American Hustle featured an even better ensemble than last year's Playbook, in my opinion. Really, nobody was poorly cast, and it was hard for me to find something to criticize (acting-wise). However, I managed...
While the performance of Amy Adams may not be negative itself, its ability to meet my expectations was far from grand. After her great turn in The Fighter, I really thought Russell might bring out of Adams another Oscar-worthy performance, much like I believe he did with Bradley Cooper on his second go-round. Unfortunately for Adams, however great her performance as Sydney Prosser may have been, Jennifer Lawrence was there to outshine her, every single step of the way. For me, this result was unexpectedly negative.
Looking back at my list of bests from 2012, the only category in which I question my choices is the category of dramatic actor, in which I named Bradley Cooper number one for his role in Silver Linings Playbook. I thought I might have been blinded by the humor that Cooper's character brought to a great film. However, after watching his character (Richie DiMaso) in American Hustle, there is no doubt in my mind that he can freakin act! In fact, it's going to be hard to keep him out of the top spot for a second straight year! Not only did his character offer up some of the funniest moments of 2013, but he also did a great job of connecting with me, on an emotional, dramatic level, which I was not expecting at all. As I said before, I didn't know what to expect with any of the characters in American Hustle, so I may have been blinded yet again, but hopefully not. On top of Cooper's great performance, Jennifer Lawrence was amazing as the wife of Christian Bale's Irving. Her character (Rosalyn) may have been a tad bit unnecessary, but the performance by Lawrence was extraordinary! I'll be honest... She didn't impress me nearly as much in Silver Linings, so she should definitely get some Oscar attention with this performance. On top of that, great performances by Christian Bale, Jeremy Renner, and Louis C.K. made this positive character section one of the largest in the history of average criticism! So, kudos to the marvelous cast!
If you enjoyed, at all, the drama/comedy mix of David O. Russell's previous films, American Hustle is sure to please you. There is no doubt that I enjoyed the film, and I would definitely like to watch it again, so I can enjoy the comedy even more. Don't get me wrong... there is some real drama surrounding the hustle theme. But, if you don't take the film too seriously, there are so many greatly hilarious moments that I promise will blow you away. I could see how many of the jokes may miss with some people, so go in ready to laugh! Also, before you cheer on any single acting category on Oscar night, check out these fantastic performances. They are sure to please! As for David O. Russell... One of these days, he is going to put great acting and great story together, and, when he does, prepare for a best picture win. Mark my words! I give American Hustle 3.2 out of 5 stars.