Sunday, February 09, 2014

Best Picture Primer: American Hustle

American Hustle sees David O. Russell guiding an ensemble of some of his favourite actors through and cops-and-robbers tale reminiscent of the ABSCAM operation in the 1970s and 80s.

The only principal that Russell hasn't directed before is Jeremy Renner, having worked with Christian Bale1 and Amy Adams in The Fighter, and Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence2 in Silver Linings Playbook, both films which earned Russell best direction and best picture nominations, as has his latest effort.

Working in American Hustle's favour are its Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy Golden Globe win, Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress Globes for Adams and Lawrence, respectively, and a SAG Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast.

Working against it are, ironically, Russell's previous works.  Even with a slight misfire, Russell's keen direction as well as his rising star are enough to earn him a nomination, but American Hustle is ultimately inferior to his last two efforts.  It tries too hard to duplicate the chemistry Cooper and Lawrence had in Silver Linings with Bale in Cooper's place, while Cooper is unable to channel the emotion and energy that Bale wrestled in The Fighter.

Ultimately, Russell's vision, despite the film's 138-minute runtime, seems unrecognized, and it may ultimately be outdistanced by the other films its up against.

Other Nominations

Best Actor - Christian Bale
Best Actress - Amy Adams
Best Supporting Actor - Bradley Cooper
Best Supporting Actress - Jennifer Lawrence
Costume Design - Michael Wilkinson
Best Director - David O. Russell
Film Editing - Jay Cassidy, Crispin Struthers, Alan Baumgarten
Production Design - Judy Becker, Heather Loeffler
Original Screenplay - Eric Warren Singer, David O. Russell

1 - Bale won an Oscar
2 - Lawrence also won an Oscar

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