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September 21, 2023

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Media Review: “American Hustle”

Con artists, corrupt politicians and sexual affairs act as the driving force of the story, but David O. Russell’s new film uses these concepts to tell a relevant, unorthodox tale of redemption while offering timeless life lessons necessary for survival.

Set in post-Watergate America, “American Hustle” presents the audience with conventional characters to the crime-comedy-drama genre: mobsters, crooked politicians, hustlers and alluring women. However, these characters are thrown together into demanding scenarios full of lies, deception and love. The interactions with one another as well as their places in society open questions of authority, ethics, romance and friendship that can only be answered as time unfurls.

“American Hustle” follows Irving Rosenfeld [Christian Bale], a man who learned that “taking” is necessary for survival at a young age, and built success for himself through conning others — even those close to him. Rosenfeld and his partner and maybe true love, Sydney Prosser [Amy Adams], later get caught in a situation with the FBI.

Rather than using violence, sex and foul language [OK, there’s some] to tell the journey of a shady man’s venture into an even more crooked world, O. Russell’s direction makes the film more of a character study and questions rights and wrongs in society through interaction and dialogue.

The film very well could have glorified corrupt activity, but it instead allowed audiences to connect to the characters through their humanness and intentions and ignore the bad connotations given to such archetypes, yielding sympathy. Not only does it tell a familiar story in a new perspective, but also adds wit, humor and deception to make it more compelling, believable and thus, entertaining.

“American Hustle” could not have been as engulfing if it weren’t for the supporting cast, including Bradley Cooper as Richie DiMaso, a stubborn, curly-headed FBI Agent and Jennifer Lawrence as Rosalyn, Rosenfeld’s manic but sexy, scene-stealing wife and mother of his “adopted” son.

Performances were honest and appeared genuine, set on eye-catching production designs, all captured through dramatic cinematography that takes the audience on a vivid journey into the 1970s.

Although the film is fictionally based around some true events [FBI ABSCAM Operation and the advent of the microwave], setting it in the 70s helps to establish a paradox of Christian morals at a time of corruption, themes evident in the film and also consistently seen in popular culture and society.

These conflicting ideas heavily drive each character to act the ways they do and even lead to redemption for some.

Whether characters don’t want a divorce but are having an affair or simply have a really bad temper [or comb-over], the incorporation of these ideas and common perceptions of society, success and survival are what make the somewhat generic, “kind-of-true fake biopic” hold it’s own and encapsulate American life.

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