Today was a treat: the first “public” showing of the film, which won’t be released until mid-December. It’s full of the same high-octane energy that fueled director David O Russell’s last two movies, “The Fighter” and “Silver Linings Playbook,” and it features many of the same cast members: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence and Robert DeNiro. But “American Hustle,” while also about flawed characters you come to care about and root for, is much more ambitious in its canvas. Very loosely based on the ABSCAM investigations of the late ’70s and early ’80s, it’s about a bunch of con artists and FBI officers who work together to bring down corrupt politicians and mob casino bosses, among others.
Brilliant con man Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) is married to his completely unpredictable wife Rosalind (Jennifer Lawrence) and is a loving father to their son in their Long Island home. At the same time, he’s madly in love with and in cahoots with with the equally cunning – and very sexy – Sydney (Amy Adams). They’re forced to work for a wild and crazy FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper), who pushes them into a world of Jersey powerbrokers and mafia that’s as dangerous as it is alluring. From the opening scene, in which we meet the fat (you should see that gut!), balding (you should see that combover!) Irving, I kept thinking Is that really Christian Bale???? Talk about throwing himself into a role. He’s almost unrecognizable and so, so good. After watching him last weekend in “Out of the Furnace” and thinking back on his other performances, I’m really thinking he’s one of the greatest actors we have right now. He’s a total shape-shifter in this movie.
As I said above, the energy throughout is high and the cons just keep making your head spin, and it’s not always easy to keep up with who’s conning whom and why. But my biggest problem with the film, which I mostly liked, was its nonstop decibel level. And by that I mean that everybody’s always yelling. Like in almost every scene. About half way into the movie, I had sensory overload and the movie exhausted me. I would have loved a few scenes of quiet, of reflection, of toned down acting.
I still haven’t seen my “Best Movie of the Year.” I’ve seen a lot of good ones but not The One. I’m hoping it’s still out there.