This is the first in my Oscar Best Picture 2014 review series.
I also found the disco-era, "ha ha, look how tacky the '70s were" conceit rather obnoxious and off-putting if not by any means inaccurate. American Hustle is florid with its ’70s period overkill; hyperbolic and a
bit like wearing too much Aramis, flashing too many mood rings or
sipping too many tequila sunrises. To ante up the tacky factor, the
action is set in Jersey and Vegas.
Director David O. Russell is a current Hollywood hot property, having directed The Fighter and Silver Lining Playbook among other noteworthy recent efforts, making him an Oscar darling. But American Hustle smacks of David O.'s overindulgence.
Given the intensity of the performances, it's rather odd that this film feels so sluggish and enervated. It's basically a heist film that allows little tension or suspense to get in its way. Christian Bale, sporting a pot belly and a toupee with a comb-over, is apparently going for the Best Actor Oscar in a big, Raging Bull sort of way. Bradley Cooper is solid (and a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nominee) as is Jeremy Renner. Amy Adams -- often typecast in ingenue roles -- makes a wonderful bad girl (Best Actress Oscar nominee), but it's Jennifer Lawrence who steals the film with her over-the-top characterization, snagging a Best Supporting Actress nomination.
All in all, a daunting ensemble to be sure but, basically, five characters in search of a film. Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell have no business being Best Writing, Original Screenplay nominees in my humble opinion. In fact, if you're asking me, that's the biggest American hustle of all.