Review: American Hustle (Russell, 2013)

Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

You would think from watching some of the trailers on TV that Jennifer Lawrence was the main actress in this film. Everyone’s ga-ga over her performance, and I get it–Lawrence is magnificently entertaining and always lovable. If you want over-the-top–and this movie is all about over-the-top acting–then Lawrence is the over-the-toppest of them all. I was actually more impressed by Amy Adams in this film, but, anyway, Oscar nods to them both. (On a side note, whatever happened to the Jennifer Lawrence of Winter’s Bone? I miss her.)

For those who loved The Fighter but not Silver Linings Playbook (both brought to you by director David O. Russell), I would say that the movie has more the tone of the latter than the former, though I think Christian Bale is just as good here as he was in The Fighter. Overall, American Hustle has a similar sensibility to Silver Linings, and Lawrence and Bradley Cooper, though only supporting actors in this film, lend it that same zany energy. By the way, Jeremy Renner is excellent as Mayor Carmine Pulito. He might have been my favorite character in the movie. Though he looked familiar, I hardly recognized him as the same guy who played Ben Affleck‘s buddy in his 2010 The Town. (Of course, Renner’s had bigger roles than that–I just haven’t seen those other movies yet.)

I walked out of the theater thinking that this was about as entertaining a film as you get these days, but I didn’t think it was much more than that. For some reason it reminded me of I Love You Phillip Morris, which I liked for its light-heartedness in the midst of what could easily have been a bleaker film. But now it feels done and done again. Nevertheless, the Academy seems to disagree with me, handing out ten nominations to American Hustle, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Original Screenplay. Maybe only 12 Years a Slave has as good a chance of winning. A pity, but then it’s the Oscars. Slate‘s Willa Paskin seems to agree with me, and then some.