“American Hustle” is based on a true story, as it pays tribute to the FBI ABSCAM Operation. With its opening statement, unusual yet immediately gripping, we clearly see how the public’s trust in the government has decreased, considering the Watergate Scandal that happened a few years prior. The ABSCAM operation was based in Long Island, and it originally targeted trafficking stolen property. However, it evolved into a public corruption investigation.
The political figures involved in this scheme included a US Senator, six members of the House of Representatives, a New Jersey senator, members of the Philadelphia City Council, the mayor of Camden, New Jersey, and an inspector for the Immigration and Naturalization Service. The codename “ABSCAM” is actually short for Arab Scam, or Abdul Scam, the name of its fictitious front company.
David O’Russell chose to take the story and fictionalize it rather than making a straight-forward adaptation. This was an attempt to glamorize the climax of the scheming, as per usual of Hollywood’s artistic licensing. The names have been changed, but the story is pretty close to reality.
In the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, an FBI agent, Richard DiMasio (Bradley Cooper) coerces Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) and Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) to tee up and execute an elaborate plan to expose corrupt politicians. To get things going, Irving convinces one of his close friends to charade as an Arab Sheik looking for investments in American from politicians.
Irving and Sidney manage to con many powerful figures to get what they want, from transferring millions of dollars into a fake account to scamming one Irving’s close friends, the mayor of Camden, New Jersey (Jeremy Renner). The amount of hustling and smooth-talking throughout this film is wild, as the elaborate scheming intertwines with the onscreen chemistry between members of the star-studded cast.
It’s no mystery why Christian Bale has been nominated for yet another Golden Globe, this time for his performance in “American Hustle.” I’m not sure which has more personality, his character Irving Rosenfeld, or the elaborate combover he styles in the film’s opening scene. His charismatic air can sell ice to an eskimo, as I can’t imagine anyone more fit for the role. Bale can take any role on, and thoroughly exhaust it to the point where we really forget who Christian Bale is.
Once more, Christian Bale prepared for his well in a hard core fashion. This time around, he gained forty pounds and got a combover. Bale went great lengths and slouched his posture so much for his character that he herniated two of his disks in the process. His transformation is in fact so impressive that Robert DeNiro (who makes an appearance in this film!) didn’t even recognize him after being introduced to him onset.
Per usual, Amy Adams delivers an excellent performance. She and Bale have returned to work together under O’Russell after appearing in his 2010 film “The Fighter.” Their excellent performance together contributes to “American Hustle’s” box-office success. She too has received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy.
Bradley Cooper reunites with O’Russell as well reunites with director David O’Russell after being in his 2012 film “Silver Linings Playbook,” and has racked up yet another Golden Globe nomination under his direction. The same goes for Jennifer Lawrence, who played Rosenfeld’s unpredictable wife Rosalyn. Cooper really got into his role as DiMasio as he permed his hair for the occasion, and wore hair curlers in a couple of scenes.
The costuming, hair and make-up for this film are anachronism free. It even uses the 1970's Columbia Motion Pictures logo at the film's opening. Though outrageous at points, the clothes and styles of the time period fit in perfectly for the late1970’s. From Adams and Cooper’s curled hair to Bale’s intense combover, we see the time period unfold before our eyes. Even Renner fashions a pompadour that would impress Conan O’Brien. The soundtrack was fantastic as well. It effectively fits the mood. Artists featured on it include Duke Ellington, Oscar Peterson, Elton John and the Temptations. Just to name a few of the incredible musicians featured in the film.
Originally, “American Hustle” was titled as “American Bullshit,” and that script was written in 2010. It was on the Hollywood Blacklist, until resurrected and rewritten. After seeing it, I can only imagine what the original script called for, considering this one was written with so much eloquence and panache. O’Russell had the actors and actresses that appear in this film in mind as he took on the script.
The spontaneity of the scenes unfolding feel so real, and audiences can relate to the characters, no matter how much or how little. For example, the argument scenes between Lawrence and Bale are improvised, as the actors were more capable to connect to the action without the limitations of a script.
Things come very naturally to the screen, as a good portion of the dialogue is improvised. This is no surprise, as the cast is brilliant, but the plot becomes difficult to follow at points. Christian Bale even noted how this would effect the plot and could potentially destroy the film overall. O’Russell responded with confidence “I hate plots. I am all about characters, that’s it.” This is no shock, as the characters in this film have such strong screen presence, you cannot help but to love every single one despite their tragic flaws. They truly make up for what confusion audiences may be in.
With the above listed Golden Globe nominations along with that of Best Director (David O’Russell), Best Motion Picture (Musical or Comedy) and Best Screenplay (Eric Warren Singer and O’Russell), “American Hustle” is definitely worth checking out. The styilistic aspects and execution of the story told wouldn’t have been as effective if it wasn’t for the efforts of O’Russell and everyone involved in “American Hustle.”