AMERICAN HUSTLE is a highly entertaining screwball comedy about small time east coast hustlers in 1978.
Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, and Jennifer Lawrence headline a talented cast of characters who con each other and sometimes even themselves.
Part of the fun is trying to figure out who's conning who.
Christian Bale is Irving, a small time con man who meets Amy Adams as Sydney at a pool party.
Irving: Is that Duke Ellington on your bracelet?
Sydney: As a matter of fact it is. He died this year, you know?
Irving: I know. I doubt anyone else here knows or cares about him.
Sydney: Well, I care about him. He saved my life many times.
Irving: Mine too.
Bale gained forty pounds for the role of this likable scammer, and he's utterly convincing.
Irving is married but he falls hard for Sydney who becomes his partner, selling art forgeries and swindling money from investors until they're caught by ambitious F.B.I. agent Richie Dimasso played by Bradley Cooper. But Richie promises not to charge them if they help him in a big sting: entrapping local politicians by offering them bribes for favors. It's not a plan Irving and Sydney want to carry out, but what choice do they have?
Irving: We were so successful for so long because we kept it just small enough.
Richie: If you were that successful, how come you ended up in this room with me, right now, taking orders from me?
Sydney wants to flee the country, but Irving is loyal to his wife and her son whom he's adopted.
Jennifer Lawrence is Rosalyn, Irving's big mouth ditzy wife, and Lawrence plays the role to the hilt. In one scene she puts aluminum foil over a metal container and sticks it in their new microwave. Immediately, the oven explodes in flames.
Irving: I told you not to put metal in the science oven. Why'd you do that?
Rosalyn: Don't make such a big deal about it. We'll just get another one.
Irving: I don't want another one; I want the one Carmine gave me.
Rosalyn (in a mocking tone): I want the one that Carmine gave me. Carmine, Carmine, Why don't just marry Carmine and get a little gold microwave and wear it on a chain around your neck.
Carmine is the local mayor played by Jeremy Remmer. Carmine has fallen for Irving's con (as set up by Richie), and Irving feels guilty about that, because he genuinely likes the man who will ultimately go to jail for accepting $75,000 in a bribe.
To say that things get crazy as the process goes on would be an understatement.
But while director David O. Russell goes for outlandish humor, he's also created very human characters that we can sympathize with in spite of their outsized flaws.
As Irving puts it, "People believe what they wanna believe….we're all conning ourselves one way or another, just to get through life."
Terry Hunter, Hawaii News Now. firstname.lastname@example.org