Top 100 American Movie Quotes of the 21st Century: #97

The actor:Jennifer Lawrence
The character:Rosalyn Rosenfeld
The film:American Hustle
The quote:“‘Don’t put metal in the science oven, Rosalyn.'”

My favorite part of any David O. Russell movie is when they reference the game where the Eagles beat the Cowboys 44-6 to make the playoffs. It has nothing to do with Silver Linings Playbook, really, but I can’t help smiling when I think about that wonderful beatdown over the team I hate the most. My second favorite part of any David O. Russell movie, and the only other part of any David O. Russell movie that I like at all, is this one. American Hustle is more like a costume party for middle-aged adults than it is a motion picture, down to the painful cringe of watching these people in their terrible costumes and clown makeup and fake hair.

The only person who meets this challenge in the film is Jennifer Lawrence, who, to be fair, was probably the only person in the cast whose bones weren’t creaking while trying to do these somersaults and cartwheels over the dialogue. Not even twenty-three when filming wrapped, Lawrence plays a woman whose hair and intellect are both most reminiscent of a cinnamon bun, and plays looser and funnier with this part than anyone else does with theirs. Amy Adams, who we did not know then was trying Glenn Close like faddish hippies tried Hare Krishna, is not funny in this movie. Bradley Cooper is not any funnier than his hairdo; Christian Bale could have been replaced by Michael Myers and nobody would have been the wiser. She is not hindered by memory of the time period or by lust for Oscar glory, and so we get this brash doofus who is more pure than any of the other brash doofuses populating the movie.

“Science” as an adjective is funny. In the 1970s, people were starting to come around to “microwave oven,” and there may well have been some holdovers calling them “electronic ovens.” To the best of my knowledge, “science oven” is a very funny phrase that no one used. (It’s also…redundant? Like, it’s not social studies baking an apple pie.) Lawrence puts this delightfully nasal run into “science oven,” leaning into the possibilities for that “yun” sound in both words. She’s so snide and confident, a Dunning-Kruger paragon wearing falsies, so sure that Irving is just telling her not to put metal in there because he…wants to tell her what to do so much that he’ll tell her about putting metal in the microwave? It’s an absurd scenario, one that only makes sense if you’re as pent up and loony as Rosalyn, and of course the ultimate payoff when she actually does stick metal in Chekhov’s science oven is great.

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