Home / Awards / Jennifer Lawrence Steals the Show in ‘American Hustle’ First Screening

Jennifer Lawrence Steals the Show in ‘American Hustle’ First Screening

Jennifer Lawrence Steals the Show in 'American Hustle' First Screening

SAG audience responds warmly to first guild showing of David O. Russell film, while Amy Adams dishes on showing skin and kissing J-Law

“American Hustle,” the David O. Russell film that has been considered a possible last-minute spoiler in this year's awards race, was unveiled to Oscar watchers on Sunday in Santa Barbara and in Culver City on the Sony lot, and the initial verdict was … all over the place.

Early reactions on social media talked of a standing ovation for Russell at the Santa Barbara Film Society screening on Sunday afternoon, and of scattered boos at a SAG Nominating Committee screening on the Sony lot that night. I wasn't in Santa Barbara so I can't vouch for the ovation, but I was at Sony and certainly didn't hear any boos.

Instead, the audience responded warmly, with applause that started immediately but died out relatively quickly.

Also read: Jennifer Lawrence Isn't Scared, She Just Wants a Drink in New ‘American Hustle’ Spot (Video)

The film doesn't go down as smoothly as Russell's last, “Silver Linings Playbook”; it's odder and more ambitious, the kind of film that deserves contemplation rather than a rush to judgment.

While reviews are embargoed for another week, social-media reactions were permitted on Russell's raucous drama, which is based on the FBI's Abscam sting operation of the 1970s. Its cast is an all-star lineup from Russell's two previous films: Christian Bale and Amy Adams from “The Fighter,” Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper from “Silver Linings Playbook,” a cameo from “SLP” costar Robert DeNiro and, for a change of pace, a central role for the new-to-Russell Jeremy Renner.

The first tweet after the SAG screening came from In Contention's Kris Tapley, who posted “‘American Hustle’ is … okay.” Awards Daily's Sasha Stone followed with “Enjoyed much of ‘American Hustle.’ Juicy performances throughout. Need second viewing to fully absorb.” And David Poland was more enthusiastic: “‘American Hustle’ looks like double digit Oscar nods, pretty easily.”

If there was any kind of unanimous verdict, it was that Jennifer Lawrence steals the show as the wife of Bale's character, a con-man who is forced to help the FBI with a sting that aims to take down mobsters and corrupt politicians.

Also read: Jennifer Lawrence, Amy Adams Dazzle in ‘American Hustle’ Character Posters (Photos)

And talk of Lawrence was the highlight of the post-screening Q&A, when Amy Adams was asked about a showstopping scene in which her character and Lawrence's character hurl vicious insults at each other, and then end the encounter with a forceful kiss that brought applause from the SAG audience.

“I don't take credit for a lot of things, but that was my idea,” said Adams. “I don't know why. Maybe I just wanted to kiss Jennifer. She's just so cute.”

The Q&A also included Russell, Renner, actress Elisabeth Rohm, editor Jay Cassidy, costume designer Michael Wilkinson and casting director Mary Vernieu.

The director called the film “the third part of a character and rhythm reinvention that started with ‘The Fighter,'” and said he and Bale had a backyard conversation in which they realized why the material – in which almost every character is assuming a new identity at some point – appealed to them.

“Everybody in the world plays a part every day,” Russell said. “That's what interested us.”

He also said that the film, which is essentially a drama with comic moments that almost reach farcical proportions at times, lives up to its title card billing: “Some of this actually happened.” As for what in the film actually happened, he offered this: “If I told you what was true, you wouldn't believe it.”

The film's disco-era wardrobe also got lots of attention, with Wilkinson talking about how he had to create some brand new '70s clothes when they couldn't find the right vintage garments, and Adams adding that her character's relentlessly plunging necklines had already caused problems at home.

“My daughter is three and a half,” she said. “She looked at the poster and said, ‘Why do you show your boobs?'”

  • Jim

    She's real and better than talented.

  • The Flobbit

    Looking forward to the film. I take it that by that last statement Amy Adams shows her boobs in this movie? Not that it matters…

    • Stefan

      Except that it does, at least when it comes to major acting awards given in the past couple decades.

  • Mary229

    I love Jennifer Lawrence and I'm truly glad she's so successful. But, at some point, are we going to be able to talk reasonably about the fact that at 23 years old she essentially took a part in this film from an actress in her late 30's or early 40's? She was far too young for Silver Linings too. There are already so few roles in films for women over 35 without the ageist reality that young 20-somethings are going to be put in those positions when they are far too young. It sort of feels like Russell reworked his entire film for Jennifer Lawrence and while I love her….that just feels wrong. It also sort of feels like Russell screwed Amy Adams over as this project was originally planned to be huge for Adams and then it was reworked for a 23 year old to have the “big” moments.

    • Caley McGuire

      Lawrence is in her moment and will sell tickets. It's another reminder that it's show BUSINESS.

      • Duh

        You know nothing. Fans show up for Hunger Games because it has a rabid following. Investors fall into the same rabbit hole over and over. They fallaciously isolate a single ingredient for success, i.e. Jennifer Lawrence stars in Hunger Games, Hunger Games does huge business, therefore Lawrence will bring huge business elsewhere. A good story well told is what sells but that's not a simplified recipe. The comment above is spot on about how they keep shoehorning Lawrence into roles that are out of her depth, be it in terms of age range, gravitas, or acting skills. It'll take a series of flat performing movies before Hollywood will stop shoehorning and move on to the next ‘big thing.’ Repeat cycle.

        • carmen j.

          Agreed. I have never seen JLaw act with gravitas and depth . She has problems with complex roles ( e.g. Silver Linings Playbook . The Hunger Games , & Winter's Bone ) . Saoirse Ronan is younger than Jennifer Lawrence , yet she always acts with nuance , handle complex characters , convey intelligence , and she knows how to express every emotion with her face . I can't say Lawrence has those qualities .

          • gabs03

            Well I suppose that's the beauty of different opinions and perceptions. I find that it is the total opposite. Lawrence shows much more emotions, complexity and emotions than I can say for Ronan. And i've seen all of their movies. From poker house to Byzantium… You name it I've seen it.

        • Caley McGuire

          I made no comment about her suitability or depth. The fact remains that Lawrence is now the flavor of the month/year and the Hunger Games and SLPlaybook have shot her to the top of the more viable actresses list. “American Hustle” will only further her success and bankability. The woman has ten other films in various stages of pre or post production, so despite your dismissal, her career is doing just fine. Good stories are important, but often a pleasant bonus. Bankable stars traditionally sell the tickets. The sad truth is that actresses in their 40's and beyond do not draw moviegoers into theaters. I'm not talking art. I'm talking commerce. But then, I know nothing and you've got it all figured out.

          • Stefan

            You're right that being able to headline a movie past age 40 is exceptional–unless the film has some other big selling point (Gravity comes to mind) it's going to skew toward an older female audience. And you're also right that anyone with business sense would emphasize Lawrence's role in AH. I can't recall an actress (or actor, for that matter) who managed to simultaneously headline a blockbuster franchise while also working in smaller (and still profitable) awards bait films. She's going to have a six year run with at least $4 billion worldwide box office and potentially four or five Oscar nominations.

        • Stefan

          Twilight and Harry Potter had an even more rabid following as book series than Hunger Games. But Hunger Games (released outside summer and the winter holidays, when every other mega-blockbuster has been slotted) earned more in North America than any of the 12 movies adapted from those books. And Catching Fire is on course to gross more worldwide than any movie in those two franchises except Harry Potter 8 (which had a huge boost from being in 3-D). As an investor I'd have to ask: why? And given the direction of the films has been by directors that audiences don't know, and that P and A has been by Lionsgate, a mini-major with no prior record of this kind of success, I'd have to think that Lawrence was a pretty big reason for the kind of broad appeal that the Hunger Games series is enjoying. Explain how those films go from the $250-$300 million club and get above the $400 million mark in North America (and for Catching Fire above $1 billion worldwide) if audiences don't connect strongly to Lawrence.

      • Mary229

        Yes. It's a business. But it's also an AGEIST, sexist business that allows men to continue to shine well into their 50's and shoves women to the sidelines by the time they hit their 30's. So we can talk about “business” all we want but if we can't acknowledge the gendered ageism that is a part of this then it's a useless conversation. I like Jennifer Lawrence. I LOVE Hunger Games. But I still root for Adams to get the nomination because she was a 38 year old actress put in the position to compete on screen with a 22 year old in an industry that prizes youth above all other things for women.

        • Caley McGuire

          When was it that Hollywood was about being fair?

        • Stefan

          It's not ageism. The industry simply caters to standard cultural norms about what is beautiful, which themselves seem to arise from our own hard-wiring about fertility and virility. Youth helps, but so do good genes and being in extremely good physical condition. For example, Rebel Wilson is very young, but she's not going to get cast in the JL role in Hustle. And Amy Adams was not simply cast for her acting talent–no one's asking to see Meryl Streep in plunging necklines. I'm sure there are men (and some women) who will be watching Hustle and appreciating Adams and Lawrence equally (if not favoring the former) without a thought to relative ages. In last year's Snow White film, a running joke was the odd notion that Kristen was “fairer” than Charlize (who is 15 years older). Bullock is 49, and no one looks at her and says “too old” (yet).

          The same rules hold for the men, too. Audiences have a standard definition of male beauty, and I'd like you to find an actor trying out for leads in drama/action/romance who does not have the body and face of a model (or close to it). Comedy, of course, is an exception to all this, because being obese or old or not conventionally attractive can often be used for situational humor or sight gags (hence why the older Johnny Depp, Melissa McCarthy, and many others still sell tickets).

  • Pass

    JL looks and acts llike a child playing dress up. What a bill of goods they're trying to sell on that one. AA comes off pathetic in this interview. The movie biz is a mess.

  • cheddar

    Because no one in Hollywood has ever put actors in very adult roles before! No one has ever played a part older than who they really are, clearly. She did a great job, get over it.

    • Mary229

      There is a difference between putting actors in “adult” roles and the sysmtematic ageism in Hollywood where young women are cast opposite men almost 20 years their senior consistently while women are sent out to pasture after age 35. Get a clue. This isn't a knock on Jennifer who is wonderful. It's a reasonable commentary on the problem.

  • KT

    All this talk about agism and women in Hollywood seems rather hypocritical when you're dismissing an actress because she's too young and “stealing roles” from women in their 30s. Droning on and on about agism while you're simultaneously being incredibly ageist? Give me a break.
    Agism is not a word reserved for the “older” generation. It applies across the board. Lawrence is not your typical 23-year-old when it comes to talent. Watch her movies and it's obvious. She earned her two Oscar nominations, and her Oscar win, just as women of all ages have done for decades and decades.
    Lawrence can clearly hold her own against such phenomenal actors as Amy Adams and the rest of the cast. Russel cast her for the same reason he cast actors from his previous films. He knows they're talented and he enjoys working with them. Suggesting that the casting of Lawrence is just a money-making scheme is insulting and, once again, ageist. Russel is not a director who's looking for box office glory. He cares about telling a story and giving us characters who have depth. I really don't understand how anyone would think that he gives two shits about how much money his movies make.
    You don't “steal the show” or get the “big moments” because you're the it-girl who's part of a huge franchise. You steal the show because you're talented and fearless, as Adams said herself. And maybe, you should consider that those “moments” are made big by the emotional impact that Lawrence can create.
    Give the young woman some credit. Praising her doesn't mean you're taking anything away from the many talented actresses out there. IT MEANS YOU KNOW REAL TALENT WHEN YOU SEE IT! REGARDLESS OF AGE.

    • Mary229

      What an ignorant comment. Pretending that there is “ageism” against young women in Hollywood is akin to pretending there is sexism against men and racism against white people. It's ignorant to the point that it's embarsssingly clueless.

      Young white women in HOllywood are prized above all else. They are consistently cast in roles opposite men who are 15-20 years their senior and then shoved out to make way for younger women once they hit their 30's. No one discriminates against YOUTH in Hollywood and you are crazy and clueless if you think they do.

      This has nothing to do with Lawrence's talent. I agree that she's very talented and very beautiful and very special. I also think she can hold her own. It doesn't change the reality that this is yet another movie with a 23 year old woman in a role that should have gone to an actress 15 years older in an industry that treats women as less valuable as they age.
      Also, if you don't realize that Directors can and do craft ‘big” moments to feature certain actors more in the editing room post production then you know very little about film making. The shape of the film and what gets emphasis doesn't happen when they film—it happens when they EDIT the film. You know, it would be nice if Jennifer's fans could have enough maturity to understand the realities of sexism in this industry for 30 seconds as opposed to constantly pretending it doesn't exist. It's not a personal attack on Lawrence who is wonderful.

      • gabs03

        Well…I think that considering that this is David O'Russel. Who is known for picking the same actors that he has previously worked with, it's hardly a surprise that Jennifer Lawrence was chosen again. He did say that Jennifer blew him away from the first audition for Silver Linings and it's clear that he gets along extremely well with her.

        So the fact that one director, who likes picking the same actors over again, gave her older roles twice is no cause for concern. Clearly he likes her and her acting. You should be worried if it becomes a trend for her with other directors but it's just one. And I say good for her because it gives her more experience and time to learn even more from some of the best in the industry. I want to see a talent like that grow even more.

  • Phil Hunter

    Boos? I didn't hear any boos at the Sony Screening. I agree the audience was quite warm and I feel they were in awe of this film. I know there is a lot of ‘buzz’ about Jennifer Lawrence but I feel this was a great ensemble effort. I was impressed by Mr. Russell generous effort to incorporate improvised material with the script and continue the details/topics in his rewrites and the arc of the story. Comments included a continued editing process this week before the film opens and the logistics and great effort at the 70's wardrobe (they had to make 15 pairs of glasses for Christian Bales’ Irving character).

  • Ezio Agahva

    Mary, the idea that women in Hollywood are pushed aside as they get older is a well chronicled fact. It's unfortunate and definitely should be addressed. But you're doing it in the damn wrong movie.

    A) for all your statements about a woman in Hollywood being pushed aside when she's 30 you're complaining about a movie that has a leading actress that's 38,

    B) Jennifer Lawrence does a great job and in many critical reviews absolutely steals the show, and I happen to agree

    C) O Russel, like so many other directors works with the same actors and actresses. That's how Hollywood has become.

    If you want your argument to hold credibility, don't do it on this movie when the one “ageist” role is played by someone who knocks it out of the park.

    Also, take a sneak peak at the Golden Globe nominees for this years Best Actress category, every one of those ladies is above 30.