The best (and maybe the worst as well) thing about this movie is the disfiguration of Christian Bale. He did once change his appearance drastically for The Machinist, but it was not in the same way. In American Hustle, Bale completely let go of the idea of him as a handsome guy. He put on weight, sported a comb-over and seriously disgusting chest hair. The opening scene of the film is that of Bale fixing his comb-over by applying a toupee and gluing it to his head. The director has effectively destroyed whatever is left of Bale in that one tiny scene.
The transformation continues with the rest of the actors: Cooper wears his hair in ridiculous tight curls, and we actually see him in curlers at one point. Amy Adams gives up her innocent, good girl persona and becomes an ex-stripper turned con artist. Jennifer Laurence always sports a heinous updo and garish makeup with a crazy attitude to match. The actors’ transformations into their roles are quite impressive, but that may be the only impressive thing about the Oscar-nominated movie.
It is equivalent to the street-version of Ocean’s Eleven, and while the characters reel you in the movie at first, two hours seem too long for the flimsy storyline. At first, the film focuses on Amy Adams and Christian Bale’s characters’ relationship and how it develops, but then it completely takes a turn and suddenly transforms into FBI ploys and swindling plans. It was as if suddenly the writer remembered there was another story he had to tell and made a sudden and disruptive transition into it. Despite the sudden change of plotline, the film’s slow pace makes for a few boring parts in between.
Robert De Niro makes a small appearance as a big-time mafia man who threatens to destroy all their plans. That was one of the few surprises in the film but, unfortunately, De Niro does not make much of an impact on the film as a whole and so his addition to the cast does little to decrease the tedium of American Hustle.
Overall, the film is a nice movie to watch when you are bored on a random Tuesday evening, but I fail to see why it received an Oscar nomination, especially when you look at the roster of films that were selected this year. The actors did a fine job, but that does not make up for the faltering storyline.