Though it didn't have me hook, line, and sinker like his previous film, David O. Russell's American Hustle is one of the best movies of the year, even if it can't quite live up to expectations.
Still, there's an embarrassment of riches in American Hustle so it's hard to know where to begin. So let's start with that ensemble cast, the best of the year. Christian Bale, giving a rare comedic performance, absolutely kills it as Irving Rosenfeld. Behind a huge belly and horrific hairpiece, he gives the performance the swagger and heft it needs to portray a man who can swindle anyone, even the most beautiful women in the room.
His partner in crime is Sydney (Amy Adams), who quits her job at Cosmopolitan to play the part of "Lady Edith Greeley, with banking connections in London." They scam dozens of low-level crooks until Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper) catches them and forces them to work for the FBI to bring in other con artists.
From there, it's pretty much chaos as they all try to bite off more than they can chew. Richie thinks he can bring down corrupt politicians. Sydney thinks she can play both Irving and Richie. Irving thinks he can find a way to keep both Sydney and his young wife Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence). They all converge on Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner), the mayor of Camden, New Jersey, who thinks he can save Atlantic City.
What keeps American Hustle from being a true masterpiece is that, for all the wheeling and dealing, there's very little substance. This is a showcase for these great actors (and the costume designers) but little else. That doesn't mean it's not entertaining. It just could have been something even more, and probably was, back when Eric Singer wrote the first draft called American Bullshit.
But in its final form, American Hustle is probably the funniest movie of the year. It's not just the hairstyles. There are genuine laughs from every member of the cast, but particularly Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper. The former walks a fine line. She almost veers into annoying, and your mileage may vary. For the latter, he's giving the best performance of his career. While Silver Linings Playbook may be the more complex role, Richie DiMaso combines all douchiness and charisma into one fireball.
While it wasn't the masterpiece I had hoped for, there's plenty to enjoy for anyone who loves movies.