Amy Adams received her fifth Oscar nomination for playing Sydney Prosser, the seductive and mysterious girlfriend of a con artist who poses as a British aristocrat in David O. Russell's latest flick, American Hustle. Many people believed that there would be a fight between Meryl Streep and Amy for that fifth spot among the nominees with Meryl being weaker, but as it turned out, the weakest link was Emma Thompson, which leads me to believe that Amy is actually a dark horse for that Oscar win. If there's anyone who has a chance of pulling off an upset on Oscar night, it's her. It's her fifth nomination (with no wins), she's well liked and the actors seem to be crazy about American Hustle. Still, unless Amy wins Bafta, Cate Blanchett has this award locked up.
The overwhelming love from actors for American Hustle was surprising to many, but not really for me. Obviously, David O. Russell's movies always do well with actors. It features a terrific ensemble with some of the biggest stars at the peak of their respective careers. The story itself is well-written, although I wouldn't say it goes into such depth as 12 Years a Slave (which I also find overpraised) or especially Gravity (despite the lack of a traditionally developed story). American Hustle is nothing but very smart and occasionally stunning entertainment that can be grateful for especially Jennifer Lawrence whose performance is a hit or miss, I'm well aware, but count me in among the fans. The constant pain present behind loud, exaggerated scenes and the out-of-place sentences, the unleashed craziness that makes her performance in Silver Linings Playbook look like subtle French acting all help make her scene quite simply stunning. I'd say that out of the 10 nominations, it's the only one that it deserves to win.
And it's not really the best case scenario for a lead actress if a supporting lady steals the movie so much, especially when that leading lady herself is borderline supporting. In my opinion, one of the main reasons why Amy Adams doesn't have an Oscar is that she's always cast in the second most interesting role of the movie that rarely gets the fireworks that lets her really shine. In Doubt, Viola Davis' brief, but heartbreaking performance overshadows basically everyone, but especially Adams whose performance seems rather pale, lifeless and kind of lost compared to it. In The Fighter, Christian Bale and Melissa Leo chew the scenery to such an extent and breath the oxygen out of the movie so much that all the other actors are suffocating and are unable to have an effect. And in The Master, Amy Adams totally fell into the background thanks to the groundbreaking performances of the two male leads. I suppose the reason why she always plays this type of roles is her versatility: she's able to elevate even the most underwritten character and her charisma and star power always shines through.
In many ways, Amy Adams always has the hardest part in the movie and she rarely screws up (although she's dangerously close to it in Doubt). In American Hustle, for the first 20 minutes or so, it seems that finally she gets the best role in a movie and boy, does she live up to it! She walks around with confidence, wraps Christian Bale's character (and us, the viewers) around her fingers with her fake British accent, her sexiness and of course, that cleavage. She wonderfully shows the tragedy behind her character and her drive for survival no matter what. She obviously becomes the emotional centre of American Hustle with the most serious role - and whenever the screenplay demands seriousness, Amy Adams just nails it. She shows the emptiness of Sydney, but also her desire for redemption and a new life and this occasionally leads to the most heartbreaking moments of the film.
Another very intriguing aspect of Amy's performance is the way she portrays the character's relationship with Bradley Cooper's and Christian Bale's respective characters in this film. In many ways, Sydney's stronger then both of these men and yet she depends on both of them. Many interpret this as the result of a shallowly written, maybe even sexist screenplay, which I personally don't believe. I'd rather say that the character herself is lost and seeks for someone she can finally rely on, but knows no other way to achieve that, but through manipulation and acting. We can actually see the dilemma of this character as she breaks down and reveals (some of) the truth to Bradley Cooper's character. However, you remain uncertain if she did this because she really wanted to tell the truth or if it's just a part of another plan. This adds to some of the most exciting, unpredictable moments of this performance. You just never know what's coming up next with Sydney and if that was Amy's main goal in this movie, she succeeded.
(I believe, if you wanna look good, you gotta forgive everybody. It's the best beauty treatment.) no matter how well Amy pulled off this character in theory, in the context of the film, it simply doesn't work. Her performance would work extremely well in a very serious project, but not in David O. Russell's over-the-top film. Amy is unable to understand the irony in this project and reallydoesn't display a sense of humor around the character. Occasionally, it's there (like the scene at the dance club) and in many ways, it's a funny performance, but I couldn't see that bitter, crazy sense of humor. She doesn't want to coast on the silliness of the costumes, the cleavage and the whole situation. Nobody else took the film as seriously as she did and it unfortunately shows. Even if you despise Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper here, you have to admit that they seem to fit the movie better anyhow. Quite simply, if you work on a David O. Russell movie, you have to unleash the crazy beast inside you and be extremely playful with your character. Out of the place moments are just a part of how works as a director (and why I like his films so much) - you can mention the crazy dance from Silver Linings Playbook or Melissa Leo and Christian Bale singing in The Fighter or Jennifer Lawrence's insane rendition of Live and Let Die. These are the essences of these films that are serious and occasionally heartbreaking, but they never ever take themselves seriously. The tone of Amy's performance somehow doesn't fit this. And you can see this easily, because whenever she is able to unleash the beast, she's brilliant (that crazy scream on the toilet or the dance scenes with Bradley Cooper are golden). But whenever she's too serious, the whole performance seems weird (like her climatic scene with Jennifer Lawrence) because it's not weird enough.
So, despite the moments of true greatness, I cannot conclude that this is the most outstanding performance of Amy Adams. She fails the inject the much needed irony into this character and forgets about the over-the-topness of the material. Her subtle, realistic portrayal of this character just doesn't feel right in this movie. She's not playful and yes, funny enough here but she seems to miss the whole point of the movie. If she had been able to avoid that, this would have been an amazing performance. But alas, I have to say she's only very good and for this she gets a...
What do you think?