Who is in it?
Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Jennifer Lawrence, Jeremy Renner and Bradley Cooper Aka Batman, Lois Lane, Mystique, Hawkeye and The Face (I watch too many fantasy franchises)
There is also fantastic cameo which I won’t spoil but mob bosses don’t come better or scarier.
What is it about?
2 con artists get caught and have to help the FBI to buy their freedom. An elaborate plot is formed to trap some corrupt politicians, involving an erratic FBI officer, an idealistic mayor, the thief, his lover, his wife and a science oven.
As the film happily declares at the start “some of this actually happened”
Why did I want to watch it?
I’m a sucker for awards bait movies and it’s directed by David “Silver Linings Playbook” O’Russell with a fabulous cast of previous (deserved) Oscar nominees and winners.
Did I like it?
The tone of the film is fun but the story is pretty uneven and I left unsatisfied by the ending.
As expected it was very well acted. In particular the three male leads, Bale, Renner and Cooper are hilarious in their roles and incredibly entertaining to watch. Jennifer Lawrence is fantastic and whilst Amy Adams is great as always, but this is not one of my favourite roles for her.
The soundtrack is notably bizarre but helps with the wacky tone of the movie as do the fantastic costumes.
Should you watch it?
Christian Bale herniated 2 discs slouching for the performance and Jennifer Lawrence immerses herself into her erratic character with sublime skill, continuing her talents . They alone are worth the price of admission; everything is else is nice dressing. I wouldn’t call it unmissable, but if you’re a fan of any of the leads you’ll spend a pleasing couple of hours. Also unlike most Oscar contenders, it is has funny as it is dramatic but is taken incredibly seriously by the industry – not in small part due to the fabulous cast- which is a fantastic balance to achieve.
Does it pass the Bechdel Test?
Whilst there are several well rounded, feisty characters it only passes the test based on 2 pretty peripheral scenes (2 wives talk about nail polish and Amy Adams talks to a character about her cats). It’s definitely a case where women are well represented as human beings with their own identities and ambitions, but on the letter of the test it just scrapes through.
Other films it reminds me of:
A hard one, there are many reluctant grifter films, and Irving’s misgivings remind me of the constant feeling of dread of George Clooney’s character in Out of Sight, going along with someone else’s flawed plan but stuck and having to find a way out. Also Jeremy Renner channels Sean Penn in Milk (without the voice), but I’ll go with Boogie Nights, which in a similar vein, made the 70s look so much cooler than I suspect they actually were.
Watch this instead/as well/before/after:
Revisit Junebug for a truly fine Amy Adams performance with American Hustle co-star Alessandro Nivola, Silver Linings for Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence with superb chemistry and The Machinist to see the other end of Christian Bale’s weight spectrum.