• For at least one moment in time in 2013 it felt like David O. Russell was taking over- and with American Hustle, he outduels Scorsese.
  • American Hustle feels like the best kind of improvisation- not the kind where a film feels like it could really use a good writer- but a film where spontaneity translates to energy. Russell should be given credit for creating this atmosphere where his actors all feel like they are throwing 100 miles per hour (exhibit A. is Jennifer Lawrence is doing a music video with cleaning supplies to “Live and Let Die” halfway through the film).

Jennifer Lawrence as Rosalyn – the wife of Bale’s Irving. Each character seems bigger than the next

  • the opening title indicate that “some of this actually happened”
  • in a longer take- the film opens on Christian Bale’s bad hair and big gut. Bale is one of the greatest actors of his generation and this is certainly one of his best performances. He apparently gained over 40 pounds for the role (going the other way from his previous collaboration with Russell where he lost a bunch for The Fighter in 2010). Russell starts with Bale’s voice over. There are three needle drop songs in the first eight minutes (Duke Ellington’s “Jeep’s Blues” is an important part of the text). Amy Adams (also amongst her best- and she is one of the best of the same generation) takes the baton for the voice over. Russell has a Welsh actor doing an American accent, and an American actor doing a British accent. This film is about crime, uses multicharacter voice over narration, and it has an extensive needle-drop pop/rock soundtrack. This is Goodfellas, Casino, Boogie Nights, or The Wolf of Wall Street (also 2013). Russell even freezes on Louis C.K.’s Stoddard Thorsen character in one scene.

very few films have the confident swagger of David O. Russell’s American Hustle 

  • Russell doubles down on his 2010 and 2012 lead actor pairings. In The Fighter he has Bale and Adams. In 2012 with Silver Linings Playbook he has Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper (Cooper’s Richie DiMaso is “power drunk” and fueled by cocaine). American Hustle is larger, more ambitious, and there is more than room enough for all four of them

Glowing production design and costume work (wigs, velvet and hair curlers). Adams’ Sydney Prosser character a great 1978 golden yellow color scheme.

  • Russell is not making a statement on his own work taking a bit of a cue from Scorsese or anything- but the “painter or the forger- who is the artist?” discussion is fascinating.
  • The vitality created from the size of the characters and some of the pacing from Russell deserves praise. This is wall to wall period music from Elton John to David Bowie. The camera is active- scurrying down hallways and streets. . In one inspired scene, Adams is screaming in emotion from the bathroom stall and then Russell cuts to Jeremy Renner (excellent as well- as Mayor Carmine Poito) and Bale swaying (clearly having a ball) and singing “Delilah.”

There are bellbottoms, platform shoes, bad (in a good way- haha) makeup and plunging necklines

  • Russell is known as a very difficult director to work with, but it does not show in the final results as the actors seem to all have great chemistry- often a hilarious rapport.
  • Just about the perfect small part for Robert De Niro as Victor Tellegio (again leaning into the Scorseseisms).

Apparently, De Niro did not even recognize Bale on set with the costume and weight gain.