I had really high hopes for David O. Russell’s American Hustle; having loved everything about his last cinematic venture Silver Lining’s Playbook, and with all the Oscar buzz surrounding the 70’s flick, I was so eager to see it, I nearly didn’t buy pick n mix. Nearly.
But, despite being filled with both sweets and the razzle dazzle of the seventies, I left the screen feeling a little . . . empty. O. Russell is one of my favourite directors of the moment. What I most love about his direction is its priority; the plot of the film comes second to the lives within it, and herein lies his art as a filmmaker. With this being said, I don’t know whether the lives on show in American Hustle were maybe not as interesting or, despite the best efforts of some amazing vintage frocks and do’s, I just didn’t invest in them.
Don’t get me wrong. Had American Hustle simply been a test of authenticity, it would have passed with flying colours; the one thing I was able to invest in was the era, due for the most part to the costumes – Christian Bale’s dry cleaner room jacket, I mean you. Every shine of bling, every oversized lapel, every Farah Fawcett flick of hair seemed to have been executed effortlessly and to perfection. The gowns of the leading ladies oozed vintage glamour, when you could look beyond Amy Adams’s cleavage enough to notice what she was wearing. I know the 70’s were all about low cut pieces and exposure, but really, every outfit?
Another thing they did get right was the cast. If there’s one thing David O. Russell does know, its good actors. Jennifer Lawrence was amazing as always, still a stand-out even in a role smaller than her latest franchises. Her performance as a dim, whimsy and closeted housewife, her chemistry with Bale, even her house cleaning methods all cement her status as one of Hollywood’s most bankable, and lovable, stars. I also take my hat off to Bradley Cooper, a man whose acting skills I always used to doubt. It’s hard to say he’s going up in the world when he’s been part of the Hollywood A-list now for years, but, thanks to his latest performances, he’s going up in esteem, which, for a professional actor, should be even better. A special mention goes to Jeremy ‘Hawkeye’ Renner’s crow’s nest wig – what would the Avengers say? Christina Bale’s comb-over gave a stellar performance, while Amy Adams and her cleavage barely stayed afloat in the harbour of viewer interest. If she had won the Oscar, which would have been a bit of a shame, they should have given one to her, and one to each of her supporting actresses.
But even the stellar performances aren’t enough to get this funky piece out of its funk. In the end – no, pretty much from the beginning – you just don’t seem to care enough about the characters or their complicated lives to be interested in their big money-making scheme, which inexplicably includes a scene from mobster Robert De Niro. You can’t shake the feeling that the film needs something, an extra oomph that no amount of hairspray can give; despite all of its bouffant hair pieces, American Hustle simply feels flat.
Though I didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would, there is still much to praise about the film. Elaborate sets and costumes, brilliant performances and still great directing by O. Russell. But instead of leaving the theatre with a silver lining, audiences may feel that seventies vibe fade when the lights come on, replaced instead by a staleness; ‘like flowers, but with garbage’.
I would give it three hair rollers out of five.