David O. Russel’s brilliant take on the ABSCAM Affair of the 70’s, “American Hustle” tells the story of con artist duo Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) and Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) as they are forced to work under FBI Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper) in a sting operation meant to take down Jersey powerbrokers, mafia, and even a few Congressmen along the way.
In the world of American Hustle, there is only one personality; a person who is driven, at least slightly, mad by ambition. Nearly every character, aside from Stoddard Thorson (Louis C. K.), DiMaso’s supervisor, struggles with appeasing the gratuitousness that characterized the 70’s.
Whether it be lust for pleasure, wealth, or in DiMaso’s case, prestige, all of the characters have a rude awakening with reality when things don’t go their way. For instance Irving, his wife Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence), and Sydney struggle to find a way out when things grow very out of hand very fast.
Through this, DiMaso continues to indulge in his fantasies, digging deeper and deeper into his own grave, completely blinded by hubris and ambition. This blindness leads to fanaticism and belligerence when DiMaso’s plan meets any roadblocks. Eventually he will fall victim to himself and meets the fate any determined and obsessed person fears most.
In this way, American Hustle is a commentary on the human experience, the nature of pride, and the fate those that trek such a dangerous path often face. It also reflects on love, drawn by the triangle of Irving, Sydney, DiMaso, and eventually Rosalyn who gets mixed into all of the chaos.
Throughout the film, although it touches on the seriousness of human nature, the movie is able to amuse and captivate audiences with its comedic undertones. Whether it be from seeing Christian Bale, who viewers were recently accustomed to seeing as a suave, rich, and ripped crime-fighting superhero, sporting a full beer gut and combover as a slimy 70’s con artist, or hysterical scenes where Louis C. K. is always the butt of the joke and even brutalized with a telephone by Bradley Cooper.
Although it is a period piece, American Hustle dazzles all audiences with a solid plot that makes the viewer question their own ideas of success, love, and even morals, as the surprisingly good ending found the entire theatre rooting for the debaucherous con artists in a resolution that could not have been better.