Amy Adams in ‘American Hustle’: Still an Oscar bridesmaid?

I confess, every time Amy Adams is cast in a movie I’m secretly hoping it’ll finally win her an Oscar.

I thought she should have gotten it on her very first try back in 2005, when she was up for “Junebug” – then again, she lost to Rachel Weisz (“The Constant Gardener”), whom I admire equally – and I actually preferred her to her winning co-star Melissa Leo in 2010’s “The Fighter.” Now she’s in another bona fide Best Picture contender, “American Hustle,” which reunites her with “Fighter” director David O. Russell. This’ll be the one, right?

If only, but I’m not so sure. Her role has plenty of the hallmarks of an Oscar performance: she gets to cry and connive (impact! range!), and she seduces male characters and awards-voters alike with low-cut dresses (Babe Factor!). She’s also essentially playing two characters: American con artist Sidney Prosser and a phony English alter ego with banking connections overseas.

However, “American Hustle” is an ensemble film, so Adams doesn’t dominate it the way Sandra Bullock does “Gravity.” And she’s not as flamboyant as Cate Blanchett (“Blue Jasmine“) or Meryl Streep (“August: Osage County“), who both play pill-popping, hysterically emotional women. Worse, Adams is at risk of being overshadowed by her co-star, Jennifer Lawrence, who has a smaller but arguably juicier role.

Lawrence plays a loose cannon, a chaotic force who threatens to ruin the best laid plans of the film’s many hustlers. Adams — as a competent con artist — is by necessity more subdued, and thus Lawrence is able to steal scenes. As Lawrence’s character is a woman who is likelier to get noticed, the actress gets more attention too.

The same thing happened in “The Fighter,” where Adams played the title character’s level-headed girlfriend but lost out to the brassy, bossy, off-the-wall mother played by Leo.

Alas, even a nomination for Adams at the Oscars isn’t guaranteed; though she was just nodded at the Golden Globes, she was overlooked by the SAG Awards, usually a strong predictor of Oscar. But if Adams does manage an Oscar bid for “Hustle,” it’ll be her first in the lead category and her fifth overall. If she then loses she’ll be one away from tying an unfortunate record: Thelma Ritter and Glenn Close both contended at the Oscars six times without ever winning.

On the bright side, this bid would put Adams in the company of Kate Winslet, who also amassed five Oscar nominations at a young age before finally winning with her sixth try (“The Reader” in 2008).

Ms. Adams, your Holocaust movie awaits.

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