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Things I Learned at the First Screening of David O. Russell's 'American Hustle' (VIDEO)

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by Anne Thompson
November 25, 2013 1:09 PM
21 Comments
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Jennifer Lawrence and Amy Adams in "American Hustle"

Amy Adams came up with the idea of having Jennifer Lawrence give her a big smack on the lips in the scene pictured above, Adams revealed at a Q & A following the first industry screening on the Sony lot of David O. Russell's "American Hustle" on November 24. "I don't know why, maybe I just wanted to kiss Jennifer," said Adams. "She's so cute...I'm fearful. I'll do anything with a lot of thought, I'll throw myself in there. She is fearless, it's really cool to be in that company. She's a remarkable woman at 22." (For evidence, not only check out the "Silver Linings Playbook" Oscar-winner's box office record-breaker "Hunger Games: Catching Fire," but her face-off with Jon Stewart, below.) 

"So often a chemical fight has a sexuality in it," added Russell. "It was a toxic idea in a toxic exchange. It was Jennifer's toxic good-bye." 

Judging by how the ambitious period comedy loosely inspired by the Abscam scandal (which most resembles the Newman/Redford pairing "The Sting," which took home Best Picture in 1974) played in a room full of Screen Actors Guild members and a smattering of press, "American Hustle" is a rousing crowdpleaser with populist appeal--and plays great for actors. It showcases the strengths and weaknesses of writer-director Russell's filmmaking technique. He creates colorful characters with his actors, structuring loose boundaries of a story around them and letting them wing their way through it as he goads them on, tracked by multiple cameras in a 360 environment. 

'American Hustle'

Jeremy Renner, who ricocheted between playing the film's lead con artist role-- when Bale briefly dropped out --and sincere New Jersey politician Carmine Polito, who is trying to rebuild Atlantic City by any means necessary, found working with Russell exhilarating--and exhausting, as new pages would be slipped under his door. "It's work," he said. "We as actors are empowered to help David tell the story." Added Adams, "It requires you to use parts of your brain that you never had to use before. It's constant discovery. You have to be so lubricated (laughing)---like an engine." 

Sony also gathered the film's veteran casting director Mary Vernieu (who deferred to her long-time director in this public setting, as key crew almost always do); television actress Elizabeth Rohm (who felt liberated by Russell's method), "Silver Linings Playbook" editor Jay Cassidy (who admitted that he has become accustomed, after working with Sean Penn, to having actors such as Bradley Cooper in the editing room); and costume designer Michael Wilkinson (who had a blast with the garish outfits while trying to stay authentic to the late-70s period setting).  

Another tidbit revealed at this Q & A: After Russell discovered Louis C.K. because of "The Fighter" Oscar-winner Melissa Leo's Emmy-winning star turn on the show, he cast him as straight-man foil to Bradley Cooper's hard-driving FBI agent Richie DiMaso. The results are hilarious.

In a competitive year, it will be fascinating to see how this raucous, free-wheeling, careening comedy fares with critics and Oscar voters. It's so audaciously entertaining that audiences should flock to it. Commercial, unpredictable and sexy, the movie should exceed "Silver Linings"' $227-million worldwide gross. Who cares about awards? Already Twitter is lighting up with talk of scene-stealer Jennifer Lawrence for supporting actress. That nomination will likely happen. 

But don't count out shape-shifter Bale, who lost weight in his Oscar-winning supporting role in Russell's "The Fighter," and gained 50 pounds this time to play wily dry cleaner, art forger and lone shark Irving Rosenfeld. He adores his lover and con-artist muse/partner Sydney Prosser (Adams) and hates himself for still wanting to fuck Rosalyn, his manipulative suburban wife (Lawrence). 

Bale makes you not only believe Irving (whose elaborate comb-over is a work of art) but love him in this role. And Adams moves through many levels of fakery and authenticity along with her British alter-ego, Edith. (While Russell calls Cooper's performance as an in-your-face out-of-control FBI agent "transformative," it's also cringe-inducing.) If "American Hustle" isn't an awards home run on the order of "Silver Linings," it's certainly a triple, and the industry needs more risky, daring, fun, excessive tight-rope walks like this one. 

Remember, while Sony picked up "American Hustle" early on--as they did "Zero Dark Thirty"--Annapurna's Megan Ellison also paid for this baby, along with another must-see movie still to come this holiday season, Spike Jonze's "Her." Thanks, Megan.  


21 Comments

  • Marcy | March 8, 2014 12:20 PMReply

    it's LOAN SHARK not LONE SHARK. Unless you're a lonely shark? in which case...yes you are a lone shark, alone.

  • Joe h | November 26, 2013 11:22 AMReply

    Yup, I've been calling a nomination lock for Lawrence as soon as I first saw the teaser.
    But what do you mean Bradley Cooper is cringe-worthy?????

  • Jules | November 25, 2013 4:07 PMReply

    Great article, I'm really looking forward to this film. The early buzz for Jennifet Lawrence's performance are exactly what I expected. Jennifer Lawrence is an amazing talent.

  • Cal | November 25, 2013 3:01 PMReply

    I'll also agree to that. The Lawrence haters are more obsessed with her than her die-hard fans, they can't stop talking about her.

  • M. | November 26, 2013 12:37 AM

    Agreed, Lawrence isn't securing a win hopefully, and I can admit that I am deeply infatuated with her. But hey she's the current 'It' Girl so none of this surprising.

  • TMT | November 25, 2013 5:35 PM

    Cal , everyone celebrity has haters. I have to say Jennifer Lawrence's die-hard fans treat her like a religion , while they bash other actresses on the comment boards .

    After seeing Catching Fire this weekend , Lawrence's acting was stiff with her usual blank expressions ( she is a untrained actress ) . In those American Hustle preview clips, Jennifer's accent sound silly and over-the-top ( sadly, I hear Amy Adams' Brit accent is unbearable ) . I will take her current praise with a grain of salt because I read a piece when a journalist compared her to Lawrence Olivier. I fell out of my chair when I read that.

  • Oogle monster | November 25, 2013 2:00 PMReply

    How is Adams'?

  • oogle monster | November 26, 2013 9:27 PM

    Fishnets- Calm down. And you're responding to that wrong comment b/c I said nothing about JLaw.

  • fishnets | November 25, 2013 9:41 PM

    Jennifer is sensational in Catching Fire and that's universal critical consensus. Haters can't get over the fact that she won the role over their fancasting choices and the movies are enormous hits. Sorry but YA bombs based on popular sources starring Ronan and Collins show that who you have as the lead does matter. Jennifer is a super charisma. Other two are not. I'm saying they are not talented, just that they don't connect with audiences and therefore cannot open, unlike Jennifer who is relatable.

  • ANTIGONE | November 25, 2013 2:12 PM

    The reaction has been mixed so far. Kristopher Tapley said she was the weakest link, someone on twitter (sorry I can't remember the name) said she was the real MVP. Hopefully she can sneak in, even if she doesn't she has 'Big Eyes' next year which looks promising.

  • Joel | November 25, 2013 1:24 PMReply

    When are people going to crawl down from Jennifer Lawrence's anal cavity? She is so overhyped and overrated. Her whole "I AM A NORMAL WOMAN, I EAT PIZZA!!!" schtick is cringeworthy, yet women seem to fall for it. The joke's on you!

  • fishnets | November 25, 2013 9:46 PM

    She's completely underhyped in comparison to Benedict "Worst Movie Debut of the Year" Cumberbatch. At least Jennifer hype rolled out slowly since Winter Bone. This guy wants everything within few months. Does she even have a Time cover like CumberHype? I believe not. There.

    And lets not forget KStew. Jennifer is hyped for her great work. KStew was overhyped for a terrible movie series and showmance with a co-star and affair with married director. Yep. Great acting didn't figure in this overhype that was way bigger than Jennifer's.

  • Ans | November 25, 2013 7:13 PM

    Completely agree, Joel. I don't mind her personality at all, but people saying she'll easily surpass Meryl Streep's talent and career, and Donald Sutherland comparing her to Laurence Olivier, I mean, Jesus Christ, enough. I was a big fan at the start, and while I still like her, I'm kind of sick of her now. And it's not just the media. She comes off as a bit unappreciative of all her success "I'm so tired!" as if she's the only busy actor in Hollywood. And her accent in American Hustle is questionable from the clips we've seen so far. She's a good actor, but she's nowhere near as good as people are making her out to be. From the clips, a few things seem a bit forced *three deliberate points at Christian Bale*. I don't know. After The Hunger Games finishes, I think things will quieten down with her.

  • Joel | November 25, 2013 7:07 PM

    @Athena Don't tell me "Enough", This is a comment section and I will give my opinion whether you like it or not. Some people just don't drink the Jlaw Kool-Aid. Deal!

  • Athena | November 25, 2013 4:16 PM

    Enough Joel. Jennifer Lawrence hss been receiving critical acclaim since her first film. The respect as well as the acclaim has been well deserved. No amount of BS comments from you will change the fact that those who know what the hell they are talking about as will change that.

  • J | November 25, 2013 4:05 PM

    @Antigone I'm not bashing HER. I'm entitled to my opinion about her acting. She wasn't bad in Hunger Games so I am not saying that she is a bad actress. It's just the constant hammering home from the media that she is the most adorable, funny, gorgeous, talented... it's very hard to ignore and when I saw the huge boners for her today RE American Hustle I just had enough. I don't make a habit of bashing her at all.

    I feel like so many people fangirl over her because it is the socially accepted thing to do. There is a sheep mentality and I just dare to have my own independent opinion.

  • Antigone | November 25, 2013 2:55 PM

    @Joel

    Meh. If I don't like a particular actress/actor I completely ignore them no point in exerting effort in bashing them.

    Its not her fault that the media keeps over praising her, they're building her up and at some point in time they are going to tear her down, its inevitable. And so what if her down-to-earth, self-deprecating persona is (to some extent) an act, I rather have than than what Miley and her ilk stand for.

  • Joel | November 25, 2013 2:31 PM

    @Antigone - I don't hate her, I am just so over the constant brown nosing from critics and journalists. They know Jennifer is popular so they cater to them, and a lot of the female reports love her because they think she represents "real women".

    More than anything - the way they talk about her as some acting goddess who surpasses even the greats of past cinema.... sorry but I have seen Silver Linings and that Winter's Bone - the former was a supporting role at best, she showed up way into the film and then proceeded to overact and flip flopping between "IM SO CRAZY" and "I'M A CUTE DANCER FLIRTING WITH A GUY". It was just a clichéd representation of mental disorders.

    The latter was one of the most boring films I have ever seen. I really looked forward to it as both she and the film were getting such praise and I struggled to stay awake. I saw nothing that merited a nomination. Dale Dickey was more impressive than she was.

  • ANTIGONE | November 25, 2013 1:55 PM

    I don't even like JLaw that much, but her brand of haters are ridiculous. Piping the same tune all the time. 'She's obviously faking her personality, its all a sham, open your eyes!' Hee its ridiculous.

    I hope Amy gets in, though Blanchett's most probably winning BA.

  • ttgil | November 25, 2013 1:55 PM

    Amen.

  • Jesse | November 25, 2013 1:39 PM

    Agreed.

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