For Reel

American Hustle (2013)
January 10, 2014, 3:00 am
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: David O. Russell
4 Stars
American HustleDirector David O. Russell makes his agenda clear in the very first sequence of American Hustle in which he revels in the kitschy artistry of an outrageous combover sported by Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale). The likable con artist is putting on his mask–one of many cons in the picture–and even if the audience is in on the joke, they are bound to gawk at the transformation (of both the absurdity of the hair and the recognizable star’s surprising weight gain). This disguise is no different than FBI Agent Richie DiMaso’s (Bradley Cooper) carefully groomed perm and lover/partner Sydney Prosser’s (Amy Adams) English alter-ego, but what Russell is particularly interested in are the other types of disguises, such as the way that Mayor Carmine Polito’s (Jeremy Renner) good intentions hide the severity of his corruption from both the public and himself. Disguises are so key to the picture that not long after Rosenfeld perfects his combover, it is abruptly destroyed by a jealous DiMaso and Rosenfeld is left absolutely stiffened–full of rage but also of humiliation, left utterly vulnerable following his unveiling. Russell’s interest in transformation means that nearly all of the principal players are cast against type, which plays like a gimmick but is hugely enjoyable. The scene-stealer is Jennifer Lawrence doing her best Jean Harlow impression (an observation made by the New York Times’ Manohla Dargis, who insightfully draws comparisons between Russell’s recent body-of-work and the screwball comedies of old), but Adams’ hustler finally gives her a character that’s fully worthy of her remarkable talent.

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