I’ve often asked myself why I, along with so many others, enjoy movies so much. For some, a movie can be an attempt to escape the monotony of daily life via the grandeur of cinematic explosions and action. For others it may be an effortless sojourn back to their childhood by watching classic films and reliving the gaiety associated with their youth. For me, a movie is a means for me to analyze the lives and beliefs of characters trying to survive and comprehend the world they dwell in; an adventure in which I witness how the philosophies and actions that people take affect themselves, their world and others. I love to experience the same emotional journey as the characters while learning from their examples, all delivered within 90 or more minutes. In this regard, I consider American Hustle one of the greatest movies I have ever seen.
Based on some of the events that actually happened in the ‘70s, con artist Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) and his partner in crime/lover Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) work together to scam the gullible citizens of New Jersey. Life is their oyster until a FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper) arrests them, offering their release in exchange for an arrest of four political figures, their biggest target being the New Jersey Senator Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner). Irving attempts, yet fails, to keep his predicament secret from his pestering wife Rosalyn Rosenfeld (Jennifer Lawrence).
The characters in American Hustle are pitch perfect. They’re fully fleshed out, given ample screen time for the audience to see their interactions and decisions along with the consequences, all the while keeping this flawless balance of likability and disgust. The motivations consistently seem realistic and understandable, and their dialogue remains true to the iconic tone of the ‘70s, accurately expressing the turmoil and conflict each character has with themselves or others.
American Hustle produces drama in its purest sense: the rare, tangible kind that practically everyone in the audience can feel. We feel during American Hustle because we can relate to the tribulations that the characters go through and the awkward, quirky moments that the movie provides.
The actors and actresses are amazing, from their physical dedication (see Christian Bale’s beer belly) to their ability to seamlessly blend into their role, a technique that’s especially hard for renowned actors such as Jennifer Lawrence, but a feat that they all manage effortlessly.
American Hustle’s characters remain the focus of the film. In fact, after the set up is given the story of American Hustle begins to revolve around the actions of the characters, instead of having the characters follow the story, making the actual story unpredictable. The film enables the audience to develop a relationship with the characters as the story unfolds.
The more the audience begins to feel and understand for the characters, the more the character’s actions begin to take tangible form and consequence. This process creates a crisis that both the characters and viewers experience, the suspense of which continually builds until a thrilling, bombastic climax that leaves the audience satisfy.
This movie is not for everyone. If you’re looking for a movie with a more foreseeable plot and a center-focus story, or one that possess more political satire of the ‘70s, then you will easily be disappointed. If you gravitate to more character driven narratives, then you’ll love American Hustle, the paragon of character-focused movies.