One hopes a Best Original Screenplay nod from the Academy ensures a solid story. Unfortunately American Hustle carries its con far beyond the screen, disappointing those who expect something greater. The film rides on its performances—complete with silly hairdos and fashion from the time—relying on the captivating powers of Christian Bale, Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence to render a good time. Any notion of a complete story is left to those who hand out awards.
American Hustle is fun. Watching the manipulations grow from subtle and small to anxious and large grants us entertainment and surprise, but little in the area of greater meaning. The screenplay is all Overall Story. Being something you’re not and convincing others to do the same works on an objective level in this film—as it should within the context of the Overall Story Throughline. Unfortunately, ignoring the subjective point-of-views available from the Main Character Throughline and Influence Character Throughline tempers this functionality and brings a level of tedium to the overall work.
The vessels for this thematic exploration exist—Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) and Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) both do what they have to in order to survive—yet they refuse to engage in any meaningful conflict outside of their roles within the Overall Story. The film ignites the potential for an emotional argument between them, setting up the context for the Relationship Story Throughline, only to allow their flames to whither away silently and without thematic resolve.
A complete story requires these four points-of-view—Overall, Main, Influence and Relationship—to frame a convincing argument. By circumventing this reality of narrative, American Hustle offers a tale that one can only enjoy and laugh at. That expectation of gathering some greater meaning many go to movies for? This screenplay relinquishes all responsibility for this to more sophisticated fare.