David O. Russell hasn’t done much wrong in his career, and American Hustle certainly won’t do anything to change that reputation. His 70’s gangster con flick has enough twists, turns and looks so good that it can’t possibly hurt his already impressive résumé. Russell follows up 2012’s Silver Linings Playbook with a film that might only come up short in relative to the bar he has set for himself. But even with the difficult competition he’s created, in the realm of films I’ve seen in 2013, American Hustle rides near the top of the list.
That doesn’t mean it’s a perfect movie. I have some complaints about the story, for one. The plot was frenetic and complex as the scenes changed over and over. It was tough to get a sense of any geography, which is sometimes helpful in telling a complex story. And ultimately when the final twists happened it felt like a bit of a letdown, as the story couldn’t live up to the performances given by the actors. Ironically, those are the same performances that also ensure that there’s no way I can be too critical of the film.
The only question I have about the performances is which one will shine through for which actor to get nominated this award season. Christian Bale and Bradley Cooper were great. Jennifer Lawrence somehow managed to disappear into the role of Bale’s supremely obnoxious wife. There were other noteworthy performances too, of course, but for my money, this whole thing came down to Amy Adams.
She was the glue that held the film together both inside the story and from a performance standpoint. She was sometimes a manipulative temptress and at other times a vulnerable victim of circumstance. Out of all the characters in the film, she’s the one that begged me to root for her the most.