Makeup in Film: American Hustle

The big film at the moment - in my world, anyway - has to be David O. Russell's seventies crime comedy American Hustle. It's funny, smart and the acting is absolutely spot-on from all five of the main cast. So, of course this weeks Makeup in Film is all about this film and it is such an easy film to focus on because practically everything about this film revolves around both the hair and the fashion - not only of the leading ladies, but also the men:


Unlike the bright and bold colourful sixties, the 1970s was a decade when less was more in terms of makeup, as natural and more subtle tones. Foundation especially followed this pattern, with nude shades, and the "fresh" look with blush on the cheeks, was particularly popular.

However bronzers were also best sellers as tanned skin grew in popularity, with tanning lamps becoming available in 1978 and tanning beds in 1979.



Greens and blues were particularly popular in the seventies, but with the rise of discos bold winged eyeliner and shimmer was incredibly popular.

Lipstick wasn't as bold as it had been in the sixties, with bright pinks and red being replaced by neutral colours, allowing for most attention to be placed on the eyes.



Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence represent the subtleties of the seventies, in quite different ways.


Amy Adam's makeup was allegedly inspired by the covers of magazines from the 1970s, but what I find interesting about the Sydney character is that she really plays up to the natural vibe that was popular throughout the seventies, as she really doesn't appear to wear that much makeup. She is of course wearing makeup, but it's very subtle with the use of neutral tones and a pale lipstick.

In comparison, Jennifer Lawrence's character has a very strong and sultry look with her makeup emphasising both her eyes and her lips. 

This different approach to makeup - I feel - perfectly represents the two characters and their differences.

For example, Sydney is a vulnerable young woman, but she hides it behind a tough exterior. She comes across quite "no-shit", and it is that attitude that comes across in her overall look. She doesn't have anything to prove, so she doesn't need makeup that draws men on.


Rosalyn, on the other-hand, is an incredibly insecure character: she is unhappy in her marriage and in her life, and she craves the attention of the men that she is married to. So, Jennifer Lawrence's makeup is kind of like the characters mask, as she attempts to make people believe that she is stronger than she really is.

She hides not only behind her makeup, but her hair (which she thinks looks classy, but just looks messy), her jewellery, her clothes and her outrageously awful nails (going so far as to obsess about the smell of her nail polish!). This inevitably creates a look that is ridiculously over-the-top.

Interestingly, in Rosalyn's final scene, her makeup is much more toned down and similar to Sydney's, perhaps as she is in a better place both literally, and emotionally.

It's normal for the women to take over when it comes to hair and makeup, but in American Hustle both Adams and Lawrence are overshadowed by their male co-stars Christian Bale and Bradley Cooper:


Practically unrecognisable in American Hustle, Christian Bale gained over 40 pounds for the role, but his paunch isn't what fascinates me, but that crazy comb over.

The film actually opens with Bale's character Irving applying a hair piece with glue and perfecting that comb-over in a scene that is a little "what the hell?", with a smidgeon of funny and a lot of empathy for the character. I know that a few people have questioned the point of the scene, but I think the scene represents the things that we all do to be happy within ourselves.


The scene featuring Bradley Cooper's character Richie wearing rollers in his hair to achieve his perm shows that even someone on the other side of the law has something that he needs to prove, but probably wants to hide the efforts he'll go to to achieve that.

What did you think of the makeup in American Hustle?
Representative of the era, or something more? 
Perhaps you think that it completely misses the mark?
How important is it - really - for hair and makeup to get an era right?

Share your thoughts below :)

Let's chat, trade tips, gossip and share 

(Go on! You don't know what you're missing!)


This entry was posted on Tuesday, 28 January 2014 and is filed under ,,,,,,. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response.

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