Oscar History

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May 23 2019

Review: The Hustle

by Samantha Craggs

The late great Gene Siskel had a litmus test: is this movie more interesting than a documentary of the same actors having lunch?In the case of Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson inThe Hustle,the answer is a resounding no.The material keeps Hathaway at a fraction of her potential wattage,and Hollywood doesn't quite know what to do with Rebel Wilson yet.

The Hustle,in theatres now,is a remake ofDirty Rotten Scoundrels,although the earlier film isn't required viewing.Hathaway plays Josephine Chesterfield,a skilled con artist with a too-affected British accent who uses her natural charm and willowy figure to swindle men out of money in a little French Riviera town.A police sergeant works with her – for a price,of course.And Chesterfield can pay it.She's made millions doing this.

In comes Wilson's Penny Rust,playing what we've come to know as the Rebel Wilson role...

She's a brash Australian.She wears stretch jeans and pink T-shirts with ironic sayings,and her blonde hair in a partial beehive.Her liquid eyeliner is on point.Her jokes are of the "did she really just say that?"variety,plus some that play on her eating habits.("I'm salad intolerant,"she quips in one scene.) The humour rests on the class and physical disparities of the two women,but the film is so hollow,so devoid of emotion,that it's hard to tell if it's empowering or not.

Chesterfield and Rust make a deal: whoever can scam a tech billionaire (Tony-winner Alex Sharp) out of $500,000 gets to stay in town.The plot that unfurls from there stretches any credibility.Each turn is more and more unlikely – how would any reasonable person fall for it?- and probably at least a little bit offensive.Otherwise,this is paint-by-numbers comedy heist fare.There are montages of people running and knocking things over as they go.At one point,someone falls down a flight of stairs and crashes into an expensive ornamental vase.There are archetypes,like the dirty old rich man and the single Texan billionaire.There are training montages that serve little purpose.

The settings,like casinos and beaches and speeding trains,are straight out ofCharlie's Angels.The mood and angles never waver.This is a film that invokes little emotion,little inspiration,little of anything at all,even by just-for-fun comedy standards.The only moment that strikes any emotional chord when Rust talks about catfishing guys who wouldn't talk to her if they saw her in person.Some honest-to-God character development?But it's far too fleeting,and it stands alone.

Hathaway is serviceable in the role,but she's done much,much better.Wilson throws herself into it with her usual aplomb.Wilson is smart – before acting,she studied law – but career-wise,she's where Melissa McCarthy was in theTammyera (minus her ownBridesmaids).She deserves a breakout where she gets the last laugh,and one gets the sense that she has it in her.Given that she producedThe Hustle,though,she's either not in a place where she feels she deserves it,or isn't powerful enough yet to get it made.In the meantime,we haveThe Hustle.In real life,as in the film,it seems everyone just wants to get paid.C-

Nathaniel & Murtada's podcast conversation onThe Hustle

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Reader Comments (8) thanks.I'll just go and re-watch the original Bedtime Story with David Niven,Marlon Brando and Shirley Jones it's sure to be a more enjoyable experience.

May 23,2019 | Unregistered Commenterjoel6

Yeah,I didn't like this one either.It was straining to be clever and/or funny and misses the mark more often than not with both.Too bad.

May 23,2019 | Unregistered CommenterRyan T.

Rebel's career and Melissa's careers are vastly different,from start to finish.

If anything,Tiffany Haddish is going the Rebel Wilson route.She has her popular schtick,and she's capitalizing on it wherever/however she can.

Melissa has never been schticky.Say what you want about Tammy or The Boss but she creates a character every outing.

May 23,2019 | Unregistered CommenterH

McCarthy is also a 2 time Oscar nominee.

May 23,2019 | Unregistered CommenterDAVID

Also,pre-Tammy,McCarthy had The Heat,which is a terrific buddy comedy along the lines of what they probably hoped The Hustle would be.

Also,Wilson was in Bridesmaids.;-)

May 23,2019 | Unregistered CommenterMareko

With Anne,I am not seeing star wattage,just bad movies.

May 23,2019 | Unregistered CommenterFaye

Anne needs to keep producing and fight really hard for great scripts and directors.That's the only reason Reese Witherspoon still has a viable career.

May 23,2019 | Unregistered CommenterH

McCarthy also won the Emmy in 2011 in a field that was loaded with talent.Rebel Wilson has never commanded that type of industry respect.

May 23,2019 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

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