“Some of this actually happened…”
American Hustle starts with a masterpiece of hair arrangement. We meet small-time con-man Irving Rosenfeld as the camera sweeps up from the floor (“from the feet up”, a phrase repeated throughout), introducing us to a rather portly, balding Christian Bale. Oh my God – look at Christan Bale! He's all fat. And what a magnificent construction of hair he has.
That's not to detract from the quality of the film, but it took me a minute to get over the state of The Dark Knight.
Having purposely not read much about American Hustle, reviews, plot or otherwise, I wasn't sure what to expect from it. And was pleasantly surprised, once I got into the rhythm of the film. The camerawork and editing provides a sense of the era, combined with the hair, costumes and cheesy music.
Brilliant dramatic performances from all, underscored by a spectacular late-70s soundtrack (Jennifer Lawrence's Rosalyn Rosenfeld singing along to “Live and Let Die” was a favourite moment of mine) and peppered with moments of pure comedy, it's clear why this film has gathered a plethora of awards and nominations.
Christian Bale isn't all about the hair/weight-gain. He gives a brilliantly understated performance as the con-man with a heart. Couple that with Amy Adams' beautiful Sydney Prosser and add a touch of Bradley Cooper's tightly-curled, slightly manic FBI agent Richie DiMaso and we've got the beginnings of an ensemble cast that Robert Altman would be proud of. Finish that off with the constantly brilliant Jennifer Lawrence and a be-quiffed Jeremy Renner and it's no wonder they've swiped the Screen Actors Guild “Best Cast” award.
It's an enjoyable film, where, to be honest, not a massive amount happens, but the script and star performances are just about able to justify the 137 minute running time… but only just!
5 minutes of Robert De Niro makes and breaks this conundrum of a movie. His solid, no-nonsense performance grounds the surrounding whirlwind and re-engages your attention - but also highlights what a total mess this movie is.
A wannabe. Oceans 11, Goodfellas or Casino? It's yet another 21st Century take on the excesses of late 1970s America.
Slapstick? Attempts at ridiculously convoluted plots? Fast angry acting? And as ever, it stretches 15 minutes past the 2 hour mark, the last 15 minutes being used to tell the story you had only a limited possibility of following through all the nonsense which precedes it.
Christian Bale doesn't put a foot wrong and Jennifer Lawrence is excellent (doing Silver Linings Playbook yet again!) But aren't we reaching over kill here? Amy Adams looks gorgeous but I kept thinking of an innocent fairy princess, and for me she doesn't really fulfil the role as a believable con artist. Bradley Cooper is totally mis-cast. And there are some great tunes.
If this is your type of movie then there are many better: the excellent Grifters, or even Layer Cake.