mon 17/06/2019

The Hustle review - rotten scoundrels | reviews, news & interviews

The Hustle review - rotten scoundrels

The Hustle review - rotten scoundrels

Lamentable Riviera con-artist remake wastes Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson

Conning themselves: Josephine (Anne Hathaway) and Penny (Rebel Wilson)Photos (c) Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

This third version of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels yarn of rival, class-warring con artists on the French Riviera is just something for Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson to do till a better gig comes along. The concept goes no higher than teaming them up, the execution considerably lower.

The plot slavishly follows Michael Caine and Steve Martin’s 1988 Scoundrels duel, as crude Aussie Penny (Wilson) elbows into the well-appointed hunting-ground of sophisticated, English Josephine (Hathaway, pictured below). Josephine nonsensically attempts to oust the interloper by inviting her in, and seeing who can separate tech billionaire Thomas (Alex Sharp) from his fortune first: if Penny loses, she leaves.Josephine (Anne Hathaway) in The HustleThough four screenwriters are credited for hoisting this nonsense onscreen, only Captain Marvel’s female co-writer Jac Schaeffer took an active part. Any hope this might be a feminist update on the earlier films is dashed, though, as The Hustle takes a dismal, old-fashioned view of its women and men. Both con artists use sex as bait, Penny via phone-photos of a glamour model “sister”. Penny suggests this is revenge on her sexist male marks, but everyone is a crude, ugly stereotype. Chris Addison, famed as Malcolm Tucker’s naive assistant in The Thick of It and making his feature directorial debut here, does know better.

Hathaway focuses on an effective performance as a cut-glass accented alpha female prone to cartoonish frustration, adding acid if few laughs to the role. Such film star professionalism in a challenging environment is The Hustle’s only watchable element. There are subtleties to Wilson’s performance, too, but none to her part. Most comedians use their physique in their act, but her use of her size for laughs here is particularly craven. The well-regarded young Broadway actor Alex Sharp’s turn as apparent dupe Thomas meanwhile recalls how much better Glenne Headly was 30 years ago – and how much more female-friendly her character’s long con was than the identical twist here. (Pictured below, Alex Sharp with Anne Hathaway)Thomas (Alex Sharp) and Anne Hathaway in The HustleWilson’s successful battle with the US ratings board to reinstate her more risqué gags certainly points up enduring double standards for female misbehaviour, in comedy and elsewhere. But the crudity is the only thing that isn’t archaic, as Bridesmaids humour crashlands in a fairytale France. The Riviera setting was suitably glamorous in 1964’s original, David Niven-Marlon Brando pairing, Bedtime Story, and a reasonable backdrop to Caine and Martin in 1988. It really creaks as a signifier of exotic wealth now. But then, nothing here feels real. Right from the New York pub where Penny attempts her opening scam and extras can’t even lift pints convincingly, the whole film is fake, leaking sawdust with every move.

“Yes, but we’re not likeable people, are we, Penny?” Josephine sensibly reminds her nemesis. Ignoring its own advice, The Hustle makes late, lurching turns into sentiment and sisterly feeling. The idea that there are moral lessons lurking in this quagmire is the biggest con of all. The presence, deep in the credits, of a “stunt drinker” is funnier than anything on-screen. A post-credits outtake confirms this 94 minutes really is the best they had.

The idea that there are moral lessons lurking in this quagmire is the biggest con of all

rating

Editor Rating: 
2
Average: 2 (1 vote)

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