The Hustle

Review by Rich Cline | 2.5/5

The Hustle
dir Chris Addison
prd Rebel Wilson, Roger Birnbaum
scr Stanley Shapiro, Paul Henning, Dale Launer, Jac Schaeffer
with Anne Hathaway, Rebel Wilson, Alex Sharp, Ingrid Oliver, Aaron Neil, Dean Norris, Timothy Simons, Casper Christensen, John Hales, Emma Davies, Douggie McMeekin, Bruno Sevilla
release US/UK 10.May.19
19/US Universal 1h34

sharp norris simons

wilson and hathaway
The odd coupling of Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson almost works in this lively remake of 1988's Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (and 1964's Bedtime Story). But the script simply isn't clever enough to craft something gleefully twisty from the con-artist premise. And the filmmakers lazily indulge in broad slapstick that has no set up. So most physical punchlines, usually relating to Wilson doing something wacky, fall flat.
After swindling several New York men, Aussie con artist Penny (Wilson) travels to the French Riviera, and immediately begins targeting gullible men, encroaching on the turf of successful grifter Josephine (Hathaway), and threatening to undermine her scams. So Josephine takes Penny in. With sidekicks Brigitte and Arthur (Oliver and Neil), Josephine trains Penny to be her partner to con a series of eligible men. After they fall out over money, both hone in on young tech millionaire Thomas (Sharo), competing over who can seduce him first and grab his fortune.
Much of the film is set around Josephine's lavish coastal villa as well as the casino in town, which seems packed with high-rolling men who are happy to part with their cash. Penny's favourite con involves the photo of a buxom bombshell that has the same effect on every man who sees it. Josephine usually uses ridiculous accents and body-hugging clothing. Together they play off each other, with rivalry pushing them to increasingly risky improvisation that's often amusing.

Hathaway and Wilson take different acting approaches, which creates a sparky duo. Hathaway's Josephine is a control freak with a vicious sense of humour, while Wilson's Penny is a more free-wheeling, in-your-face charmer. It's not much of a stretch for Wilson, but she finds a hint of depth in between the corny physical antics. Supporting roles are never developed beneath the surface, but the cast approach the characters with skill and some great comedy timing.

While it looks gorgeous, and has several funny moments, the film feels like a missed opportunity. More focus on the writing would have helped, including smarter dialog and tighter jokes, fewer trite slapstick montages and just a bit of thematic resonance. Clearly actor-turned-director Addison deserves better than this (see his work on Veep and The Thick of It). It would also be great to see Wilson stretch herself a little as an actor, as she's certainly capable of more than this. And it would have been nice to see her give Hathaway a run for her money.

cert 12 themes, language, violence 9.May.19

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© 2019 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall