American Hustle has instant Oscar buzz, but it’s not only the actors’ performances and the screenplay that are worthy of a gold statue – the costume design, music and the cinematography make this film a “must see”.
Set in the late 1970s, the movie is loosely based on the Abscam scandal, where a US politicians were targeted in an FBI sting on corruption.
In the opening scene, the audience is immediately enthralled by conman Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) and his ridiculous yet intimate process of hair preparation. Involving glue, a toupee and an elaborate comb-over, it gives a unique insight into his proud, sly and ultimately flawed character.
Irv meets Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams), who instead of running from his criminal tendencies, joins him in the con. They’re a perfect match – Sydney blossoms under Irv’s guidance and he falls deeply in love with her.
The pair find their next mark in FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper). However, Richie turns out to be more complicated than they first thought, and Irv and Sydney are unwillingly dragged into a world of New Jersey powerbrokers, including politicians and mafia figureheads. Irv even becomes close to volatile and passionate New Jersey mayor Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner), one of the targets of their sting.
Writer and director David O Russell (Silver Linings Playbook) has created a smart and artful narrative, with vivid characters and an engaging script.
Among the cast, Jennifer Lawrence is a standout as Irv’s wife, Rosalyn. She’s jealous, manipulative and knows how to play her husband and his mistress; she also becomes integral to the sting. Cooper nails his character’s desperation to clean up the corrupt politicians and prove himself, while Bale has once again reinvented himself after gaining a lot of weight for the role. Robert De Niro’s cameo as a mafia boss is perfect in its simplicity – he has become the sort of actor whose presence has so much meaning he hardly needs to say a word.
The suits and dresses worn by the main characters are flamboyant and beautiful. Sydney’s vintage Gucci jewellery and low-cut dresses pair well with Irv’s patterned cravats and bouffant-style do, and Cooper’s tight curls are also a highlight. The characters are the real story of American Hustle, and their costumes help define and redefine them.
The plot may be a little slower than expected, but this is compensated for by the character development and witty banter.
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