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First Look at American Hustle

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Last night was the first screening of American Hustle. The film is under a review embargo so I can’t really “review” it but I can give some brief notes. First off, Jennifer Lawrence steals this movie, as she steals every movie, playing Christian Bale’s wife. Pity any actress or actor who acts in the same movie as she does. She is a hurricane. If she hadn’t already been discovered by now this movie would launch her into the stratosphere. She has that ability to just pop off the screen naturally. She does that here. And then some. The q&a afterwards had David O. Russell, Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner, along with the film’s editor, costumer and casting director.

As is usual with David O. Russell movies the performances dig in deeply, explode outwards in unpredictable ways. As Anne Thompson says [MAJOR SPOILER IN THE FIRST SENTENCE OF HER PIECE, BE WARNED], the movie is entertaining enough that Oscar talk seems beside the point, though I agree with her that Jennifer Lawrence’s nod is a slam dunk. I wonder if Amy Adams’ performance — which is sharp and powerful – can bump the locked five in Best Actress. I will be seeing August: Osage County tonight but the only spot that seems to have any wiggle room at all is Meryl Streep’s.

Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
Sandra Bullock, Gravity
Emma Thompson, Saving Mr. Banks
Judi Dench, Philomena
Meryl Streep, August: Osage County/Amy Adams, American Hustle

Oscar season is a hard slog. No film ever benefits from being predicted to win Best Picture before it’s been seen. And so it will go with American Hustle. It will have to be predictably pulled down from its pedestal and then slowly lifted back up as people forgive it for not being the movie they wanted it to be. The one thing I can say about it is that it’s probably my favorite Russell film since Flirting with Disaster. Not saying it’s what people expect it to be but for me personally it fell that way. Also, the plot is dense and complex — not something easily digested in one sitting. You know those pesky Oscar voters — they like things neat and tidy. On the other hand, the performances are slam dunks across the board. Actors love actors so I would be willing to bet that they would revel in this.

But more later.