American Hustle

American Hustle ★★★½

"It's like... perfumey. But there's also something rotten? And I know that sounds crazy, but I can't get enough of it."

The lines in this movie that are important are given ALL-CAPS attention when they arrive. And that one rang out louder than anything for me. Add to that the fact that Jennifer Lawrence goes on, saying it again but in different ways, more than once.

It's the American dream. Okay. Not so cleverly buried in some lines about the smell of nail polish.

And yet, I'd be lying if I said I didn't have a lot of fun with this totally bananas costume party of a movie. It's the first film since Russell's Flirting with Disaster to tell me that the wild and crazy guy who made that movie is still around. (The day I interviewed Russell regarding I Heart Huckabees was the single most surreal experience of my 20 years of reviewing movies. Read about that here.) He's done some impressive films, but nothing with the playfully chaotic spirit of that find-your-birth-parents comedy that I loved so much. This brings it back.

Sure, the story doesn't amount to much. Con men conning con men, and all of them being bested at their games by con women. We've seen all of that before. What sets this apart is the obvious fact that the cast is having the time of their lives. That kind of joy and enthusiasm is priceless at the movies, and it's one of the reasons I'm happy to include this and The Wolf of Wall Street among my 2013 favorites.

But yeah, sure... there's plenty of rotten mixed in with the perfume. Who wants to live in a world that's all about conning each other to get what we want? The biggest problem with this movie is that it has the audacity to suggest that any kind of happy ending could come from all of this ugliness. Let the buyer beware.

P.S. When Cate Blanchett wins over Amy Adams for Best Actress, it'll be just one among countless drops in my WTF, OSCARS? barrel. Adams is ferocious in this, and it's a much more demanding and complicated role than Blanchett's. I never knew she had this kind of performance in her. Wow.

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