Movie review – American Hustle: Ode to a bygone era

2014-02-23 14:00

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Big flares, bigger sunglasses, medallions nestling in chest hair and epic hairstyles abound, writes Gayle Edmunds.

Film: American Hustle (Ster-Kinekor)

Director: David O Russell

Featuring: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Renner and Jennifer Lawrence

David O Russell is on a winning streak.

He’s just won his second Bafta for screenwriting (his first was for last year’s Silver Linings Playbook).

He’s enjoying his third best director Oscar nomination and his stars are all on the nomination lists.

Jennifer Lawrence is filling up her shelf of awards.

She won an Oscar last year for Silver Linings Playbook, and has already won a Golden Globe and a Bafta this year for American Hustle.

It’s a fictional story based loosely on a scandal that rocked New Jersey in the late 1970s and early 1980s, referred to as Abscam.

An FBI sting operation made use of a con man to tape various politicians taking bribes for favours from a mysterious sheik.

Russell’s film takes this rather seedy premise and transforms it into an ode to a bygoneera.

Big flares, bigger sunglasses, medallions nestling in chest hair and, of course, epic hairstyles.

He layers this with a quartet of the finest actors of their generation

(I excluded Bradley Cooper, who only just kept up with Lawrence in Silver Linings Playbook, and here again he looks like the last kid to catch on in class).

American Hustle is smoulderingly sexy despite being chock-full of sociopaths, led by the truly spectacular Christian Bale.

He’s a guy who likes to show off his control over his waistline.

After reaching emaciation levels for The Machinist, he slaps on the kilos for his turn as Irving Rosenfeld, a con artist with the worst comb-over in the history of comb-overs.

The movie opens with Irving getting his comb-over right, adding a toupee and then some spray-on hair.

This scene, and the one in which Amy Adams and Bradley Cooper have a phone conversation in which they are both wearing curlers, will go down in the annals of movie history. It’s absolutely priceless.

With his lover, the mysterious Englishwoman Sydney Prosser (Adams), at Irving’s side, he swindles crooks and desperate men out of a few thousand dollars.

When the two are caught in a sting operation by overly eager FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Cooper), they are forced to make the leap into big time crime.

DiMaso wants Irving and Sydney to deliver three big fish, but he quickly changes the rules and embroils them in a plan to catch sharks – in the form of crooked politicians and mobsters.

What used to be the good life very quickly becomes one lived on a knife edge, especially when Irving’s jealous, cocktail-quaffing wife gets in on the action.

Lawrence is definitely working her way up to the top of the pile to become the new Meryl Streep.

Her turn as Irving’s wife, Rosalyn, is likely to win her the hat-trick at this year’s Oscar ceremony.

Her upstyle and white dress deserve awards of their own, which is probably why this film is up for awards in the costume categories too.

American Hustle is about the fine art of reinvention.

It is also a cautionary tale about only biting off what you can chew and making damn sure that the person you fall in love with isn’t about to feed you to the sharks.

Good fun and good-looking, see American Hustle for the platinum performances from Bale, Adams and Lawrence.

.?American Hustle opens on Friday

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