and brilliantly stylizing the world in which the character exists. American Hustle is also stacked with stout actors, handling characters that require such actors to do them justice. While some people will compliment Amy Adam’s
convincing transformation from a strong conwoman to a seductive English business woman or will commend Jennifer Lawrence’s ability to tickle the nerves of her audience and convey an unpredictable bundle of fun, the true master of character in this intense drama lies in Christian Bale’s deteriorating and brilliant conman named Irving Rosenfeld, who is continuously and unfairly attacked by those he loves. Rosenfeld's own emotional pain causes him to wrestle with his deceitful occupation, producing a crumbling character bombarded with internal stress.
There were many particulars that are admirable about Christian Bale’s performance, but the single characteristic that has been recurring in most of his past films, and is existent in American Hustle as well, is Bale’s constant weight gains and losses between his character portrayals. Famously, Bale lost 63 pounds in the film The Mechanist (Brad Anderson, 2004), and then gained back the weight, plus more, to become the iconic and powerful Bruce Wayne in Batman Begins (Christopher Nolan, 2005). What was interesting about the character of Irving Rosenfeld that differed from Bale’s usual weight changes, was his lack of the typical muscle gain, and instead, gain of fat. Bale shows us in American Hustle that he is willing to literally become the character that a screenwriter wrote, even if that character is an overweight and unattractive slob. Christian Bale takes method acting to the full extreme, and that is what makes him one of the most versatile, intelligent and unique actors on the market.
While Bale's character produces a strong subject to maintain the audience's interest, the quality of the actual story creation provides a separate platform to push the Irving's journey. As filmmaking has progressed, screenwriters have felt the need to complicate their stories, drawing the audience’s attention to their characters using flashbacks, narrations, montages, etc. These tactics can be seen in many of Christopher Nolan's films such as Memento (Christopher Nolan, 2000), and Inception (Christopher Nolan, 2010), taking layers of style and story and overlapping them to create a functioning and completed plot. American Hustle replicates this style. Eric Warren Singer, screenwriter, begins the story with a pivotal scene in Irving Rosenfeld’s internal deterioration, capturing our curiosities, forcing us to ponder the full story of why Christian Bale’s character is so dedicated to persuading a politician to accept a bribe. We are then launched into a flashback of a party where Irving first met Amy Adams’ character Sydney Prosser, allowing us to follow Rosenfeld's journey to the bribe we previously saw. This style of storytelling within a film is consistently successful as it sparks the audiences’ interests and provides a beginning look at the characters we will be viewing.
The brilliancy of the screenwriting and the powerful performances by esteemed actors brought the story to life, but David O. Russell used his mastery as the director to add depth and relevance to the film and its presence in the current context. Opening with the traditional titles from the seventies of both Columbia Pictures and Annapurna Pictures, the director immediately establishes a popular style of contemporary films, highlighted by the burgundy undertones and 1970's rock'n'roll. This style was seen particularly in last year's Oscar Best Picture winner Argo (Ben Affleck, 2012), where the time period was heavily developed in the setting to create Affleck's mise en scene. David O. Russell, understanding the success of Affleck's style in Argo, found another great story during a similar historical time, and focused on the same design.
Recent filmmaking was not the only influence that was evident in American Hustle; it was easy to see that David O. Russell did his homework. The most obvious influence that can be seen throughout the entire story, was Martin Scorsese's renowned classic Goodfellas (Martin Scorsese, 1990) which used various character's points of view and stories through narration to create a completed, and deeply developed plot. Russell mimicked this in American Hustle and was able to successfully use this storytelling technique to his advantage. Another classic film, The Sting (George Roy Hill, 1973), one that surprised audiences for it's unexpected ending, set the stage for modern and contemporary twist ending plots. David Russell finished his film in a similar fashion. Although, looking back, I guess I should have expected the unexpected when viewing a film entitled American Hustle, who's main characters specialize in trickery.
David O. Russell should be commended for executing a film that utilizes the medium of filmmaking to its full potential and draws upon current cinematic trends and past classic styles. American Hustle is overall a complete film with depth, requiring a great deal of thought and analysis. This is one that I will be seeing multiple times, and I advise you to do the same.