Director: David O. Russell
Writer: David O. Russell, Eric Warren Singer
Cast: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Renner, Jennifer Lawrence, Louis C.K., Jack Huston, Michael Peña, Shea Whigham, Alessandro Nivola, Saïd Taghmaoui
Irving (Christian Bale) is a con man who finds a new partner in all things in Sydney (Amy Adams), despite being married to Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence). But then police man Richie (Bradley Cooper) catches them in the act and decides to use them to convict the mayor Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner) of corruption. But things keep on spiraling out of control.
I can imagine that American Hustle would have been a good film if somebody other than David O. Russell had made it. Or if Russell had found a consistent tone in which to tell his story. But as is the movie was just a mess.
Within the first five seconds it was clear to me that this was probably not going to be my kind of film. As the film opens, it pans slowly over Christian Bale’s belly. Filmed like a scene from a body horror film, the cinema around me erupted into laughter, the joke literally being “look, Christian Bale is fat!” (and it’s not the only scene of that kind in the film). Well, hahaha. I probably just don’t think it’s funny because I see my own fat belly in the mirror every day and when you hear a joke too often it’s just not that funny anymore. Or maybe it never was funny to begin with? Nah, that can’t be it. Because seeing fat people is alwas funny.*
And you know what’s always funny, too? TITS! That’s the second thing the film is absolutely obsessed with. Shots of Amy Adams’ tits. Shots of Jennifer Lawrence’s boobs. You practically see more of them than of their faces. [The third thing, but that is at least actually funny, is the hair and the hair-dos. Those are generally pretty brilliant.]
But even apart from all those endless camera pans, there’s hardly anything that works about the film. The cast is excellent but the characters aren’t. Their relationships with each other are thrown at us, partly narrated but always verbally explained because otherwise you could have barely made sense of them (with the only possible exception the relationship between Irving and Carmine). The story is frayed, it jumps around and its framing really didn’t help matters.
When the movie is finally done, you will have spent two hours watching people be horrible to each other. You will have watched disconnected scenes of (ab)use in a story that has apparently no point. Some of these scenes are worth seeing. But the movie as a whole probably not.
*To add insult to injury, Christian Bale is far from actually fat in the film. He has a bit of a belly, yes. He is overweight. But the way the movie goes on about his belly you’d expect it to be the size of a planet.