Sunday, March 30, 2014

Oscar Nominee Review: "American Hustle"

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 15 (of 2014) by Leroy Douresseaux

American Hustle (2013)
Running time:  138 minutes (2 hours, 18 minutes)
MPAA – R for pervasive language, some sexual content and brief violence
DIRECTOR:  David O. Russell
WRITERS:  David O. Russell and Eric Warren Singer
PRODUCERS:  Megan Ellison, Jonathan Gordon, Charles Roven, and Richard Suckle
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Linus Sandgren (D.o.P.)
EDITORS:  Alan Baumgarten, Jay Cassidy, and Crispin Struthers
COMPOSER:  Danny Elfman
Academy Award nominee


Starring:  Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Jennifer Lawrence, Shea Whigham, Louis C.K., Paul Herman, Jack Huston, Alessandro Nivola, and Michael Peña with Robert De Niro (no screen credit)

American Hustle is a 2013 historical comedic drama from director David O. Russell.  The film focuses on a con man and his seductive partner, both forced to work for an eccentric FBI agent, who forces them to help expose political corruption.

Like Russell’s previous film, Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle has two distinctions.  It received Oscar nominations in the “Big Five” categories:  best picture, director, actor, actress, and screenplay (original or adapted – original in this case).  American Hustle also received Oscar nominations in all four acting categories, and before Silver Linings Playbook, no film had received nominations in all four acting categories since 1981.  And like Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle is a damn good movie.  It is an outstanding American film about the American hustle to get what you want, by hook or by crook, the way Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas was and still is a great film about America.

American Hustle opens in 1978 and introduces Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale), a successful conman.  While attending a friend’s party, Irving meets Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams), a woman whose beauty and intelligence attracts him, and he falls hard for her.  Surprisingly, Sydney is excited about becoming Irving’s partner in his con jobs, and she takes on the identity of Lady Edith Greensly to assist Irving in tricking prospective marks/victims in their schemes.

They eventually attract the unwanted attention of a wild and odd FBI agent, Richard “Richie” DiMaso (Bradley Cooper).  Richie forces Irving and Sydney into helping him in a sting operation to expose corruption among several members of Congress in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.  Irving does not trust Richie, especially because the G-Man flirts with Sydney.  Irving’s young wife, Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence), isn’t too crazy about any of what they are doing and plots to play a part in a dangerous game of backstabbers, crooked politicians, and mobsters.

American Hustle is a fictional version of the Abscam (or ABSCAM) scandal of the late 1970s and early 1980s.  Abscam was a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) sting operation in which the Bureau was aided by a convicted con-man in videotaping politicians.  These politicians were offered bribes by a fake Middle Eastern sheik in return for various political favors, which some accepted.  The investigation ultimately led to several people being convicted, including members of Congress and elected officials in both New Jersey and Philadelphia.

And you don’t need to know that to enjoy American Hustle.  I barely remember Abscam, and I probably wouldn’t, if not for the name (a codename which combined the words “Arab” and “scam”).  It is no scam that co-writer and director David O. Russell has once again delivered a film with an ensemble cast that is just plain good.  I won’t go into the details, except to say that the five main stars:  Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, and Jennifer Lawrence are every bit as good as you have probably heard and certainly deserve the awards, nominations, and accolades they received.  It’s true.  Jennifer Lawrence is not a fluke; she’s the real deal.

Audiences that like good acting and like to see superb actors come together to love and hate, to support and challenge, and plays scenes together will want to hustle up a way to see American Hustle – immediately.  Spoiler alert:  Robert De Niro makes a cameo in American Hustle as the mobster, Victor Tellegio, but he does not receive a screen credit.  Of course, De Niro is good.  He exudes such murderous intentions as Tellegio that I almost ran away from my television set the first time he appeared on screen.

As I also said of Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle is a great movie, and I want to see it again.

9 of 10

2013 Academy Awards, USA:  10 nominations: “Best Motion Picture of the Year” (Charles Roven, Richard Suckle, Megan Ellison, and Jonathan Gordon), “Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role” (Christian Bale), “Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role” (Amy Adams), “Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role” (Bradley Cooper), “Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role” (Jennifer Lawrence), “Best Achievement in Costume Design” (Michael Wilkinson), “Best Achievement in Directing” (David O. Russell), “Best Achievement in Film Editing” (Jay Cassidy, Crispin Struthers, and Alan Baumgarten), “Best Achievement in Production Design” (Judy Becker-production design and Heather Loeffler-set decoration)” and “Best Writing, Original Screenplay” (Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell)

2013 BAFTA Awards:  3 wins: “Best Original Screenplay” (Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell), “Best Supporting Actress” (Jennifer Lawrence), and “Best Make Up/Hair” (Evelyne Noraz and Lori McCoy-Bell); 7 nominations: “Best Film” (Charles Roven, Richard Suckle, Megan Ellison and Jonathan Gordon), “Best Leading Actor” (Christian Bale), “Best Leading Actress” (Amy Adams), “Best Supporting Actor” (Bradley Cooper), “Best Production Design” (Judy Becker and Heather Loeffler), “Best Costume Design” (Michael Wilkinson), and “David Lean Award for Direction” (David O. Russell)

2013 Golden Globes, USA:  3 wins: “Best Motion Picture - Comedy or Musical,” “Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Comedy or Musical” (Amy Adams), and “Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture” (Jennifer Lawrence); 4 nominations: “Golden Globe  Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy” (Christian Bale), “Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture” (Bradley Cooper), and “Best Director - Motion Picture” (David O. Russell), and “Best Screenplay - Motion Picture” (Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell)

Sunday, March 30, 2014

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