It was only last year when David O. Russell released Silver Linings Playbook, which grossed $236 million worldwide (a career-high for Russell) and earned Jennifer Lawrence a Best Actress Oscar for her performance. The filmmaker is back in 2013 with American Hustle, which reunites him with Playbook duo Lawrence and Bradley Cooper in front of the camera – alongside The Fighter costars Christian Bale and Amy Adams – in addition to fellow Playbook alum Robert De Niro, as well as such “Russell-verse” newcomers as Jeremy Renner, Michael Peña and Louis C.K.
American Hustle – based on a script written by Russell and Eric Warren Singer (The International) – takes it cues from the FBI’s ABSCAM sting operation in the 1970s. The story revolves around an eccentric federal agent (Cooper), who teams with a master con artist (Bale) and his equally skilled partner-in-crime/mistress (Adams) in an effort to blow the lid on the under-handed dealings between a number of corrupt politicians, government figureheads and mobsters – including, the volatile mayor (Renner) of an impoverished New Jersey city.
The first trailer focuses more on highlighting the semi-farcical portrait of 1970s culture painted in American Hustle (which has already earned the nickname “David O. Russell’s Argo“), in addition to the raw emotional conflicts and messy humanity that are the director’s trademarks. A newly-unveiled theatrical previews offer a bit more insight in terms of the narrative, but Russell’s films have always been more about the characters and their interactions – see how Lawrence (playing Bale’s hot mess of a neglected younger housewife) throws a wrench in the proceedings – as opposed to being plot-driven, a la Ben Affleck’s Best Picture winner, Argo.
In all fairness, Argo and American Hustle are very much different examinations of unrelated events that happened to occur during a certain time in American history; though, both seem to have related implications for where we are as a society and culture today (we’ll skip any easy political jokes) and use grainier cinematography to reflect the period setting. Having said that, Affleck’s film is closer to well-made historical/thriller entertainment, whereas American Hustle reads as being harder to nail down in terms of genre. (Is it a comedy, drama, thriller – or all three at once?)
Of course, the madcap ride is part of the appeal when it comes to Russell’s films, and American Hustle looks to offer just that (with excellent performances from the entire cast to boot). It’s going to be a competitive awards season, judging by the contenders this year – including, the newly-released Gravity, along with upcoming titles like 12 Years a Slave, The Monuments Men and The Wolf of Wall Street (among other). Nevertheless, look for Russell’s movie to get its fair share of attention from Academy members and regular movie-lovers alike.
American Hustle begins a limited theatrical release on December 13th, 2013, before it goes wide on Christmas Day.