DM Haight

Picture this: a balding Christian Bale, a English-accented Amy Adams, a coked-out Jennifer Lawrence, a buzzed Bradley Cooper, a dirty-clean Jeremy Renner, an ancient Robert De Niro, and a random Louis C.K. all fighting to make big money (except Louis), and all just fumbling around, exposing all the cleavage and potbellies one would hope for and come to expect from a period crime drama based in the 70s. Sounds nice, right? Without a doubt, David O. Russell has created the quintessential haphazard crime drama for the modern era. With undertones of the doing minor evils for the greater good, and having realistic goals that don’t leave you hating yourself, it might be the best example of what happens when dreams get out of control. It’s a sobering film for the over the top personas we all know. The kid who thought he was the end all be all in high school, the one who is sort of kind of in jail now since he thought he was too hot.

It isn’t often that we find the hustler acting the role of the apprehensive. Christian Bale’s Irving Rosenfeld is that cautious, determined, and cool business man who knows when to take and when not to take. Given his sleazy dress and comb-over, there is little doubt that he’ll be the one to take the fall for whatever happens. He is a fat, slobbish, witty, and smart hustler from the Bronx, a role none of us would have even remotely imagined Bale playing in the prime of his career. With a degree of sadness and a subtle determination to not piss on the wrong guy’s foot. Cinema is comprised of brief moments like Bale’s performance, where we are reminded of why we love that actors we love, and why we still continue to pay the rising costs of a ticket to sit in a theater and watch, forced into the front row because the sum of the parts is just as good as the whole.

Marking the era of the late 70s are atrocious hairdos, bad clothing, and a mysterious undertone of stale cigarette smoke, imagined¬† of course. The world created by Heather Loeffler, Michael Wilkinson, and Jesse Rosenthal is a remarkable 1978 Jersey, steeped in shag carpet, velvet suits, and slinky dresses. There is more cheap perfume wafting from the screen than there is clouding over the head of a fifty-year old Alley Rat. When Jennifer Lawrence’s Rosalyn sashays through a room of gamblers and mobsters you can taste the era in your mouth. Just like her perfume, it’s got that rotten undertone with the sweetness that draws you in. It makes the best perfumes, and the best movies.

Amy Adams looks and acts like a player in love. She can’t resist the charm of Irving, even though he’s got a ring and a wife sitting at home. She plows through like a hurricane, asserting her spot among the other actors as a top dog, if not THE top dog. Between her performance and Bale’s, it’ll be hard to imagine and Oscars ceremony that doesn’t have them holding little statues at the end. Adams is the polar opposite of Lawrence, who also deserves high praise for her portrayal of the half psycho, half delusional Rosalyn.

The music, the setting, the lighting, and the photography all create a picture of greatness, a neo-noir, a comedy, a drama, a criminal film for criminals. Bradley Cooper is the perfect antithesis to Bale, and the random insertion of Louie C.K. is just a bonus for an already stellar ensemble. David O. Russell astounds us once again. Let’s hope he can keep it up.

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