David O. Russell: The Hustler.

17 Mar

Every once in a while a film comes along that surprises you. It may be from a random selection on Netflix or from a friends recommendation but it will take you by the heartstrings and tug until you have fallen head over heels. Over the years this has happened a number of times for me. These times have included Alex Kurtzman’s People Like Us starring Chris Pine and Elizabeth Banks, Danny Boyle’s Trance full of its complex twists and turns and one of Daniel Craig’s many exceptional departures from his Bond character in The Mother. But much more recently the surprise has come from David O. Russell and his trio of hits: The Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle.

With the former two films the surprises came from the performances. Bale, Wahlberg, Cooper, Lawrence, the list of stars with incredible delivery and believability could go on and on. With the latter, the surprise came from simply everything.

american hustleDuring the months before its release American Hustle, a film about con-man Irving Rosenfeld who is forced to work with FBI agent Richie DiMaso to bring down high stakes powerbrokers and the mafia elite, whilst wrestling with a complicated and lustful love life, felt slightly overshadowed by its fellow Oscar nominees. It fell way below my radar but after seeing just one trailer, I accompanied a group of friends to the cinema to watch the quietest nominee in action. Never before have I left a dark room full of strangers more satisfied….

David O. Russell has managed to achieve what so many others can only dream of. Having a large ensemble cast, creating a script heavily laden with dialogue and tackling an intriguing yet rarely visited subject matter, and making it all work. So many times we see these elements, individually and collectively, falling short of the mark due to the directors lack of clarity, but O. Russell does it seamlessly and beautifully. With his last three films he has focused on substance over style (I know, I know, Bradley Coopers hair in American Hustle is pretty stylish but hey!), managing to create a universe in which the actors are truly able to shine. One technique which has established their abilities to truly act upon impulse is through improvisation. In regards to the improv, roughly making up a third of the film’s dialogue, it has been reported that during shooting Christian Bale noted (Source IMDB) to his director, “You realize that this is going to change the plot greatly down track.” To which the director replied, “Christian, I hate plots. I am all about characters, that’s it.” What is interesting about the latter statement is that from watching his films, you can really believe this.

american hustle 2And in American Hustle that statement could not be more true. From start to finish it is the people who you care about. Not the glitz and glamour of the 1970’s, not the structure of the plot, not even the electric soundtrack, but the people. You root for them all, you care about them all, you get invested in their highs and their lows and pray that this one has a happy ending. The direction by O. Russel with actors and his avid involvement with every scene obviously plays a huge part but it is truly a testament to the actors cast in this film who are making a mark on the world.

Christian Bale proves once again that he is one of the worlds all time greatest actors, submerging himself into the character of Irving Rosenfeld with ease and clarity. Renner is superb as Carmine Polito, the Mayor caught between a rock and a hard con, with a vulnerability that we havent seen yet seen in his career but hope that it may continue. Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence shine, both literally and metaphorically, with sparkly dresses, big hair and power house performances that alight the flame for the women of Hollywood. For me though the main star is Bradley Cooper. It’s hard to believe that the young quail-shooting sleaze-ball we saw in ‘Wedding Crashers’ would grow to be such a huge contender, and if you still have doubts of his abilities then I am going to presume you have not seen this film. His acting comes from the gut, the soul, and the characters belief, passion and inevitable demise are something special to watch.

AMERICAN-HUSTLE-04-Bradley-CooperBut what about the plot I hear you cry. Well, there is one but it really isn’t whats important. On researching this film I found so many people disagreed with that statement, that they were bored by the characters, crying out for a plot that took centre stage, and proclaiming that the film didn’t live up to its hype. What is interesting about this is that the hype escaped me completely. That as I said a mere 27 lines ago (yes I counted) my attention was being diverted by other Oscar nominees such as Gravity and The Wolf of Wall Street, so I went into that dark room full of strangers clutching my £5 popcorn with very few expectations. Perhaps it is the best way to enjoy a film, I don’t know. But what I do know is that David O. Russell’s universe is one that I would happily live in.

Selling Point – Bradley Cooper for the ladies. Amy Adams cleavage for the men. Oh and it is surprisingly funny.

Line-o-rama – “I felt like we had a secret, just the two of us. Like that thing where you just wanna be with one person all the time. You feel like the two of you get something no one else gets.”  – Irving Rosenfeld

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