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‘American Hustle’ swinging and conning through the seventies

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American Hustle

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This is the story of how Irving Rosenfeld, Christian Bale, husband, father, owner of a dry cleaning business, art collector and small time con man got a mistress, Amy Adams, Sydney Prosser, fell in love, did some scams and then was caught in a web by FBI man Richie DiMaso, Bradley Cooper.
The story of “American Hustle” is loosely based on the ABSCAM scandal of the seventies in which con man Melvin Weinberg helped the FBI ensnare one senator and six members of congress in a bribery scam using a fake sheik to offer them money. However, in “American Hustle” this is not just a retelling of the events themselves, but more a study in character.
Christian Bale’s Rosenfeld has a fully pot belly, nasty comb over which looks so intricate it is wonder he can manage it. Yet, he has a soft heart underneath his polyester swagger. Jennifer Lawrence, as Irving's wife Rosalind, gives the movie some bitter sweet moments of comedy and pathos. Under her tacky, emotive veneer lays a fractured soul. Amy Adams as Sydney gives an almost perfect performance. She is at times stunning and then, haggard in appearance. One wonders whose side she is really on and how far will she take things. Jeremy Renner, Mayor Polito adds some much needed compassion and reality. He is a working class politician who is just trying to do the right thing by his citizens. This is made clear from the onset of his performance till the end. One wonders if he knows the ramifications of what he is doing, because he defaults repeatedly to the fact that the money will help his constituents.
“American Hustle” does seem to drag at points, the structure of the piece, in which it starts more at the middle of the story and then takes us back to the middle point about half way through can be a little unsettling, however it never leads us so far off the path that we cannot get back on. This is ultimately the question we keep asking ourselves: Can humans err with good intentions and still come out on the other side as honorable people? Meaning when the con is done, was it worth the ride?

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