“American Hustle” succeeds through impressive visuals and character studies

“American Hustle” has been in theaters for a while now and unfortunately lost all ten of its Oscar nominations. However, despite its lack of success at the awards ceremony, this movie is worth your while.

Written by Eric Singer and David Russell and directed by Russell, “American Hustle” takes place in the late 1970s and is loosely based on the FBI ABSCAM operation. Christian Bale and Amy Adams play Riving Rosenfeld and Syndey Prosser, two con artists who, near the start of the movie, are caught by FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper) after they attempt to con him through a loan scam. The two begin to work with the FBI and DiMaso in particular in exchange for their release. They begin to set up an elaborate and ambitious sting operation to catch members of Congress and New Jersey Mayor Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner) receiving bribes, but the operation grows bigger than Rosenfeld had originally intended.

The plot itself has been done before. The storyline is quite typical of a crime film, with an emphasis on character study. It is the second part of the movie that makes it so successful. Each of the primary roles was taken on by actors and actresses who did the characters proud. There is true depth within the relationships and personal development that is often overlooked in crime films and even films in general.

Of the many dazzling performances, however, there are a few that stand out. In particular, Jennifer Lawrence, playing Christian Bale’s wife Rosalyn Rosenfeld, captured her character to a tee. Rosenfeld is eccentric, manipulative and rather horrible. She made the audience hate her throughout the entire film. I found myself sitting in awe of Lawrence’s portrayal, especially during her cleaning scene set to “Live and Let Die” by Paul McCartney and Wings. Although Lawrence just missed out on Best Supporting Actress at the Academy Awards, which would have made her the youngest actor to win twice in a row since 1989, she was the winner in my mind.

Credit must go to Bradley Cooper for a truly detestable portrayal of DiMaso. I have nothing but respect for an actor who can make you hate his character that much in the span of 138 minutes.

Apart from stellar performances from all primary actors and actresses, the soundtrack was the perfect complement to the setting and scenes. In some ways, American Hustle was blessed by its setting in a time period filled with music that is genuinely enjoyable to listen to, especially when accompanied by scenes with truly spectacular costumes. However, props must be given to song selection for scenes like Lawrence’s house cleaning, where her lip-syncing of “Live and Let Die” impresses you with a genuine fear for her sanity with its intense instrumentals and beautiful vocals from Paul McCartney.

Furthermore, the choice to play “Delilah” by Tom Jones while Mayor Carmine dances with Irving in the cigar room of a restaurant manages to show the warmth and likability of Carmine’s character without hearing him utter a word.

Overall, “American Hustle” is a cut above most crime films. While the plot may be a familiar one, the worth of the film is in the character study, the music and truly 70s era costumes. The cast assembled for this film will likely stand out in history as a group of exceptionally talented actors, and although the film may not have taken home any Academy Awards, it will certainly remain one of the most popular films of the year.