The opening scene of Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) perfecting his comb-over and topping it off with a blast of aerosol hairspray signified the beginning of something grand. Unfortunately, it was all downhill after that.
David O. Russell's foray into con men and the mafia in the late 1970's is full of smarmy caricatures, based on real life characters from that era. Though the cast, including Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence and Jeremy Renner, is stellar, the script by Eric Singer and Russell is rife with banalities and ludicrous situations, mostly involving the mafia.
"American Hustle" is billed as a "crime/drama", though there is quite a bit of humor, intended or not. One scene has Rosalyn Rosenfeld (Lawrence) going on and on, ad nauseum, about her nail polish over an important dinner with Irving, Mayor Carmine Polito (Renner) and his wife, Dolly (Elisabeth Rohm). What, at first, was slightly amusing turned quickly into a hair-pulling (by me) sequence --- much too long and stupendously inane --- even for Rosalyn.
Movie history is chock full of films littered with unlikable characters, but rarely do I feel a need to shower after watching one such film. Not so here --- "American Hustle" is as slimy as it gets, and at two hours and 18 minutes, that's way too much for me.
Opinion: Don't Bother!
Often movie "buzz" raises expectations to unattainable levels. Such is the case for "American Hustle", writer/director David O. Russell's ("Silver Linings Playbook") latest effort. An all-star cast is in fine form, yet something tells me this film, already a critical success, will not fare as well at the box office.
The story centers on a couple of New Jersey con artists, Irving Rosenfeld and Sydney Prosser (Christian Bale and Amy Adams). Irving is the owner of several legitimate dry cleaning establishments, but they're not enough of an income to sustain his lifestyle. So he and Sydney prey on unsuspecting borrowers by collecting non-refundable fees on bogus loans.
But they are being watched, and eventually the FBI, in the form of Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper). forces them to participate in entrapments of political officials, notably small town mayor Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner). Meanwhile, Irving is married to Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence), and Richie has the hots for Sydney. The entire cast is excellent, especially Adams as the sultry redhead with the occasional British accent, and Cooper as the agent who desperately wants respect. In one scene, he pleads his case to his mother that he is in charge, he is the quarterback --- all the while with perm curlers in his hair.
Lawrence is a hoot, as usual, bringing a certain Jersey housewife mentality to her role. When Irving comes home with a newfangled kitchen appliance called a microwave oven, Rosalyn manages to explode the device, flames and all, by cooking a meal with tin foil after Irving tells her not to. But she turns it all around explaining that she read microwaves destroy the nutrition in food, and so "Thank God for me", she tells him.
Moments like this abound in "American Hustle". Despite the often unique script, I don't see this movie resonating with the average moviegoer. People could certainly relate to "Silver Linings Playbook" and Russell's earlier film, "The Fighter", but "American Hustle" may be a bit too verbose. I also thought Renner was miscast, looking too young for a mayor, although he did what he could with his part.
Simply put, "American Hustle" is marginally entertaining, and ultimately not a satisfying movie-going experience.
Opinion: Wait for DVD