“American Hustle” – 138 mins. Dram/Comedy Director: David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook) Cast: Christian Bale (Irving Rosenfield), Amy Adams (Sydney Prosser aka Lady Edith Greensfield), Jeremy Renner (Carmine Polito), Bradley Cooper (FBI Agent, Richie Di Maso) with a camero by Robert DeNiro (Mafia boss)
Our movie begins with a closeup of a man’s protruding, hairy belly. Charming. Eventually, it pans out to reveal an almost-recognizable Christian Bale complete with cheap hairpiece and a comb-over to end all comb-overs. In the 1970s, Irving Rosenfeld was a small-business man with several cleaning stores. On the side, he hustled, ripping off people with high percentage, non-refundable loans and selling counterfeit art. He meets Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) who eventually reinvents herself as “Lady” Edith Greensley of London to better lure potential clients. She and Irving are from the same New Jersey class, hungry to break out of their fate into something more. They are joined initially by a mutual love of Duke Ellington and quickly they join forces as co-conspirators on their way “up” the food chain.
Things get complicated when one of their schemes goes wrong. An overly-ambitious FBI agent, Richie Di Maso (Bradley Cooper), is intent on hanging not only the mayor of Atlantic City, Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner) but corrupt congressmen and senators, as well as the Mob. He coerces Irving and Sydney into helping set up an elaborate sting. As Irving is befriended by the mayor, he is drawn to an unlikely friendship and resists cooperating with DiMaso. Irving knows both he and Sydney are above their heads. The plot thickens as Irving’s wife, Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence) a manipulative, dumb blond holds a noose around Irving’s neck gluing his relationship with her son as an insurance policy in keeping Irving entangled with her. As the mayor tries to draw in new business and employment to his city, he is caught up between the con artists and politicians via Irving Rosenfeld. This is based on a true story. Abscam was a prominent corruption trial in the seventies that convicted several politicians on the East Coast for accepting bribes As the statement at the beginning of the movie says: “Some of this actually happened.”
Pay attention. There is more conning going on here than Carter has pills. Sydney tells Irving she is going to “play” DiMaso to help them out of trouble when the sting is over. Still, we are never really sure she hasn’t fallen for our ambitious FBI guy. The unlikely friendship between Irving and the mayor, the variety of relationships and who is real and who is not adds twists and turns throughout. Voice- overs by both Irving and Sydney coupled with music from the seventies serves it all on a fun silver platter. And the entire cast does their job. Wow! Terrific acting by Jennifer Lawrence, sexy Amy Adams and emotional, multi-dimensional acting by Bradley Cooper. I found the unlikely pompadour Italian mayor, Carmine, charming, even lovable. Finally, Christian Bale is brilliant in his portrayal of a multi-faceted character (Irving) who at first repels you but ultimately who wins you over with the heart of the character he so perfectly plays. In fact, this is an emotionally laden film that will speed through the 138 minutes in no time. They all act their hearts out.
The Oscars will be packed this year with strong nominees.