Though it may take a lighthearted approach to historical accuracy the movie is very well done, with several outstanding acting performances.
Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) and Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) are a couple of con artists operating in New York in 1978. Irving is an overweight schlub with an elaborate comb-over and tacky 1970s suits, but he has a canny grasp of human nature. Sydney on the other hand is poised, beautiful and sultry. She has created a glamorous persona of an Englishwoman with aristocratic connections.
Unfortunately they run afoul of Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper) an ambitious FBI agent. He forces them to take part in stings to gather evidence against other white-collar criminals. One thing leads to another and soon they are pursuing Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner) the corrupt mayor of Camden, New Jersey.
Polito is actually the most sympathetic character in the movie. He genuinely cares about his city and wants to build casinos in nearby Atlantic City in order to economically revitalize the area. But he comes from a political subculture in which to get anything done you have to pay people off. He plans to pay a lot of people off, including members of Congress and powerful Mafia bosses. All of them are potential fish in DiMaso’s net.
Jennifer Lawrence turns in a darkly hilarious performance as Irving’s wife, a woman of limited intelligence but full of low cunning.
Of course the main characters are Irving and Sydney. Hollywood loves con artists, perhaps considering them somewhat akin to actors.
The movie has received a slew of Oscar nominations and well deserves them.