In a gender-swapped adaptation of the 1988 Michael Caine and Steve Martin movie Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson star as a pair treading the path in the con artist profession, yet their approaches make them very different sisters in arms. Set in the beautiful south of France, the film follows Josephine (Hathaway), who has made a very opulent life for herself following years of masterful trickery and thieving from wealthy men. Penny (Wilson) on the other hand, is a small-time hustler, making her way through life via low-key cons that take her from one meal to the next, location by location. When the two meet unexpectedly, Josephine takes Penny under her wing and trains her to become a con artist of a higher class, but after a clash of financial horns splits them apart, the two partake in the ultimate wager. The first to be given $500,000 by young and vulnerable tech guru Thomas (Alex Sharp) gets to stay in town, the other must move on to ventures new.
Rebel Wilson is Rebel Wilson once again, but at least when playing herself, the actress’s jokes land, resulting in a simmering smatter of laughter across the theatre. That is, however, as far as it goes for the rest of the picture, which for a comedy really doesn’t bode well – surprising given that even the director of this film, Chris Addison, is a comic genius, renowned for his side-splitting performances as Oliver in The Thick Of It. The plot of the movie was already there on paper prior to pre-production, so why does the writing stink so much? It appears almost that the gender-swap approach (a great idea) was contextualised without any prior consideration as to how the final product and story may actually look and differ because of it.
In 1988, Caine and Martin brought a feature to the screen with an immense charm, charisma and warmth, in which both main characters proved likeable and stimulating when on screen together. You almost anticipated each scene with an eager enthusiasm just to witness what dialogue and actions the two might engage in next. There are glimmers of on-screen chemistry between Hathaway and Wilson, but ultimately the characters just look increasingly uncomfortable together as each scene passes.
The soundtrack to the movie does little to help build a sense of class and glamour befitting of the setting, suffering under the decision to put a “2013 Club Bangers” playlist on shuffle rather than follow in the footsteps of its predecessors. Even some of the editing of this film seems choppy, rash and unsynchronised. The only shining light seems to be the work of the wardrobe department, who evidently had an absolute ball when dressing the characters, Hathaway most of all, who lights up the screen with a fabulous costume in every scene.
It is understandable that actors like to undertake roles in a variety of genres, not just to test themselves, but also take a break and avoid typecasting. That is completely comprehensible, but sometimes you really are left wondering why Hathaway, an Academy Award and Golden Globe-winning actress, agrees to take part in films such as The Hustle. Take it from me: you’d be better off going to see the musical of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. I guarantee you will have more fun.
The Hustle is released in select cinemas on 10th May 2019.
Watch the trailer for The Hustle here: