seen @ Jamaica Multiplex Cinemas, Jamaica NY
I was still working video retail when David O. Russell started coming up in the film world. I remember watching Spanking the Monkey when it came out on video and thinking it was kinda bizarre, but funny. Then came Three Kings and I really enjoyed that one. That was in the super-awesome year of 1999, when so much good stuff came out. Still, I didn't think of Russell in the same vein as I did guys like Wes Anderson or especially Paul Thomas Anderson. I think at the time I thought of Three Kings as more of an actors' movie than a director's movie. Guys like PTA or Wes have a more easily identifiable style than Russell - at least, to the average fan.
Time has passed, and now I think that being an actor's director has definitely become Russell's trademark. Visually, I can't point to any one thing in American Hustle that strikes me as a Russell flourish - especially when it looks so much like a vintage Scorsese picture - but the acting is another story. Russell gets so much consistently good stuff out of his actors, from one movie to the next, and here it's just such a pleasure to sit back and watch them do their thing.
If Hustle is a Scorsese homage, then Christian Bale is the one in the DeNiro Method actor role (ironic, since DeNiro himself is also in this movie), which is made shockingly apparent from the first scene, when you see him with his great big gut. It's amazing how Bale can transform himself from being rail-thin to muscled like a superhero to fat and flabby. I can't imagine what such drastic weight fluctuations would do for his health, but give him credit for throwing himself so completely into his roles.
It's easy to simply fall in love with Amy Adams whenever she's on the screen because she is so beautiful, but then she does something that reminds you of how amazing an actress she is too. She genuinely surprised me in Russell's The Fighter three years ago, and here she gets to be sexier and more powerful, while still having a vulnerable side. No longer can one think of her as simply the demure good girl of her earlier movies. She's more than capable of being the queen bitch or the bad girl or the femme fatale, and it's exciting to see her in more roles like this.
Bradley Cooper and Jeremy Renner fit well in a film like this. The former, like he did in Silver Linings Playbook, isn't afraid to take his character to some unexpected places. The latter gets to show off some charisma in a role that's bigger than I thought it would be. Both of them have to deal with some outrageous hairdos. But I liked watching both of them also.
And then there's Jennifer Lawrence. She has a maturity and a poise for one so young that has to be seen to be believed. I know there have been other actresses who have been in her position as "most talented young actress of her generation" before: Winona Ryder, Natalie Portman, Keira Knightley, to name a few. And one wants to hesitate putting so much praise on Lawrence at such an early age, especially now that she's won the Oscar. But looking at her in Hustle, she really does make you want to believe the hype. The best may be yet to come with her.
Put it all together and you've got a highly entertaining movie with an ensemble cast firing on all cylinders. I loved this movie. I loved it a lot.