Okay. American Hustle, the 8th feature film to come from director David O. Russell, is a fictional comedy that is loosely based on the ABSCAM scandal that rocked New Jersey politics in the late 1970s. On one hand, this film can be looked at as a Scorsese class homework assignment by Russell, in the sense that he takes a lot of pages out of the now 71 year old’s playbook, including witty voice overs, overtly done and extremely long tracking shots (watch the scene where Irving Rosenfield, played by Christian Bale, walks through his dry cleaners and comapre it too the scene in Goodfellas where Ray Liotta’s Henry Hill takes his girl on a date and the camera follows the both of them from the car to the back to the kitchen to the dance floor to theit table, all in one shot), period music cues that are almost like music videos (just take a look at the music cues in Scorsese’s newest project The Wolf of Wall Street), and yes! This film even has Robert de Niro in classic wise guy mode, albeit only in one scene. But he doesn’t just stop at Scorsese. Russell seems to be borrowing many different styles from directors including Paul Thomas Anderson and Quentin Tarantino (in one semi-suspenseful then awkward car-trunk P.O.V trunk shot). That’s not to say that what he’s doing is a bad thing, it just raises the question “Is David O. Russell simply trying on the styles of these directors and then discarding them?” I am almost certain that the techniques used in this film won’t appear in his next project Legacy of Secrecy.
Okay, so maybe he has no visual style at all. Whatever. What Russell does do in this film that is his own, and damn does he do it well, is portray his interest for strong and interesting female characters. With Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence giving in my opinion their best performances, the exemplify conventions of noir and screwball comedy leading ladies, constantly staying one step ahead of the power hungry men that dominate this film. With Lawrence’s character being the wildcard that troubles Bale’s and Cooper’s plans, one of her best scenes is when she drunkenly monologues to Bale about the “power of intention”. And let’s not forget Amy Adams portraying an American con artist portraying a British heiress (kind of like Barbara Stanwyck’s character in The Lady Eve, which I highly recommend. One of the best screwball comedies of it’s time.) It’s clear that Russell gives his actors free reign to interpret their characters, which in theory could lead to awkward scenes and actors getting their wires crossed, but in this film it works, with these performers causing riot after riot with their antics, right down to the ridiculously absurd hair-dos of the three leading men- combover (Christian Bale), perm (Bradley Cooper), and pompadour (Jeremy Renner).
So in short, no it’s not the best film of 2013. Not by a long shot. But nonetheless, I would still recommend people going to see this comedy on the big screen.