THE HUSTLE

Starring: Anne Hathaway, Rebel Wilson, Alex Sharp, Ingrid Oliver, Emma Davies, Dean Norris, Timothy Simons
Directed by: Chris Addison
Written by: Stanley Shapiro, Paul Henning, Dale Launer, Jac Schaeffer
Story by: Stanley Shapiro, Paul Henning, Dale Launer
Studio: United Arts Releasing

Both Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson have come a long way since their breakout roles (Anne Hathaway as Mia Thermopolis in The Princess Diaries and Rebel Wilson as the Brynn in Bridesmaids). Both have a claim to fame very different than one another and very different acting styles. You know what they say, opposites attract! However, this dynamic duo who play con artists in The Hustle may have conned themselves into a comedy that just couldn’t hit its mark.

The Hustle is yet another Hollywood remake of 1988’s movie Dirty Rotten Scoundrels starring Michael Caine and Steve Martin and 1964’s Bedtime Story before it starring Marlon Brando and David Niven. The movie is still set in the French Riviera and tells the story of two con-artists who play rich people for their money. The gender roles have switched in The Hustle, though. Hathaway plays Josephine Chesterfield, a beautiful English woman who cons rich and powerful men into falling in love with her for their money. Wilson’s not so conventionally beautiful Penny Rust uses her cons on average, foolish men looking to get with her imaginary babe sister.

While I can respect this, especially in the wake of the #MeToo movement, I felt this movie still missed on it’s potential. On paper, this movie-star pairing sounds incredible. Both women have done comedy before, but as much as I love Anne Hathaway, I couldn’t get behind the terrible accents she dons throughout the film. I was also highly distracted by her amazing wardrobe. It’s a rare thing when the outfits out-stage the lead character. She, unfortunately, didn’t fit the kind of comedy needed to keep the jokes afloat.

I felt her role could have been recast by an actual accented actress like Englishwoman Emily Blunt or Australian Rose Bryne. Both are known to do other accents very well. Have you seen Blunt’s accent game? It’s insane! Anne Hathaway may have looked the part, but she couldn’t live up to what was being asked of her. There were apparently a few non-scripted scenes. I just didn’t feel she stood out with many of her deliveries overall.

However, Rebel Wilson’s Penny keeps the humor alive with her spontaneous-sounding delivery. She has a couple of great one-liners, like her crass “Nazi-Gollum” comment, which sparked a lot of laughter from the audience I viewed with. Her comment to Josephine: “Julie Andrews just called, she wants her voice back!” has an extra layer of funny if you remember Hathaway’s big break was alongside Julie Andrews in The Princess Diaries.

What I did find problematic was how her character was the clumsy one always getting hurt for the viewers’ amusement. Penny’s character explains at one point that she cons men using a hot picture of random women instead of herself. She recognizes she doesn’t fit the beauty standards many men seek. However, I felt some of her gags fueled the notion that bigger and unconventionally pretty women like her can’t be elegant or beautiful in their own right. Bigger women aren’t these clumsy beasts. When they trip and fall, and a vase falls on top of them, that shit hurts and isn’t a laughing matter at all. Rebel Wilson deserves better, even if her humor is crude at times and she’s supposed to be playing a low-rent character compared to her classier counterpart.

The movie has a lot of fun cons throughout. Both women have different tips and tricks up their sleeves to get what they need from each of their marks. But when they both meet on a train and Josephine sees first hand what Penny can do (she cons a man into buying her dinner), she immediately sees her as a threat and tries to deter her from her home-turf in Beaumont-sur-Mer. However, Penny doesn’t let up and eventually finds Josephine and strikes up a bargain of working together. Josephine plays along at first and trains Penny on her ways of the con-artist.

It’s when they’re just getting to know each other that Josephine asks Penny, rhetorically, why women are better con artists than men. Josephine goes on to explain that “no man will ever believe a woman is smarter than he is.” A decade ago, that might have come off as a shallow movie trope. Living in the #MeToo era, it rings more true than we want to believe. Men, according to Josephine, are wired to want to be the hero of any situation. The Hustle implies it’s the male sexual vanity that makes them eternal marks for womenkind.

The films sets us up for bigger things with the first few cons including one called “Lord of the Rings,” which is my favorite part of the movie. But then it falls flat on its face. Both women become official rivals in the French Riviera. They wager on who gets to stay by setting their eyes on a young man who resembles Mark Zuckerberg in his prime, played by Alex Sharp, as the prize. It’s cute but not cunning or original or even all that funny at some parts. Suddenly, the feminist undertone is fleeting, and the film plays out as a contest that goes from money to love to … well, I won’t spoil the end.

This is very much a television movie or even a Netflix comedy you stumble across on a lazy Sunday night. As much as I enjoy the works of both Wilson and Hathaway, this movie is one that didn’t see it’s vision all the way through. Besides maybe a recast or a rework on Hathaway’s character especially, I feel this story, in general, wasn’t as strong as the first two goes and was doomed from the start even with the star power. I was here for it all but left feeling conned myself. That was a weekday evening I’ll never get back after all.

THE HUSTLE

5.6

Was it funny?

4.0/10

Rebel Wilson's acting

7.0/10

Anne Hathaway's acting

4.0/10

Overall storyline

4.0/10

TV/Netflix Movie

9.0/10

Pros

  • Rebel Wilson is funny!
  • Feminist undertones that make you scream, "YAAAAAS!"
  • Anne Hathaway's outfits are stunning!

Cons

  • Storyline never quite hits it's mark.
  • Only a handful of funny scenes.
  • Making the "less attractive" character a joke.
  • Anne Hathaway's many accent attempts.
  • Feeling conned by the promise of a good con-artist comedy.
Mia Santos
mia.santos.guevara@gmail.com
Mia is a Toronto based writer and filmmaker. She is a self proclaimed comic book nerd, film buff and cat enthusiast. She has one short film under her belt titled Catch Up (2012) and you can read more of her film reviews on her blog The Catty Critic on WordPress.

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