Tuesday Review – The Hustle (2019)

films, reviews

the_hustle_film_poster5_star_rating_system_1_star One of the films that I watched for my Throwback Thirty was the Michael Caine and Steve Martin comedy Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. It wasn’t the worst film that I watched last year but it didn’t really make an impact. So, the news that it was being remade with Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson didn’t necessarily leave me feeling super excited. I’m all for getting more female leads in comedy films but why does it have to be like this? Dirty Rotten Scoundrels was itself a remake. So, The Hustle is a remake of a remake. I know it’s a bit of a cliche to say that Hollywood is out of ideas but, is Hollywood out of ideas or something? And, as much as I don’t want to sound like those awful men on the internet, I just didn’t really see what the gender switch was really going to add to the story.

The odd couple concept is a Hollywood staple these days. Put two opposites together and just let them annoy the fuck out of each other for an hour or so. Here we have one sophisticated con artist, Josephine, (Anne Hathaway) and one crude grifter, Penny, (Rebel Wilson). The pair meet on their way to the South of France and, after a rocky start, decide to team up to con stupid, rich men out of their cash. It all goes really well until they get into an argument. An argument that ends with them competing with each other to trick a tech genius (Alex Sharp) out of his savings. Penny pretends to be blind whilst Josephine pretends to be an eminent psychologist. But, when Penny starts to really fall for Thomas, will either be able to get what they want?

I don’t really know what to say about The Hustle. I never expected it to be any good but I was ever hopeful. Just to prove to all those men out there that having female leads in a comedy was a good thing. We need something other than Bridesmaids as evidence after all. But this isn’t Bridesmaids. This was painful. I realise this is supposed to be a film about absolute opposites but I don’t know who thought it was a good idea putting these two together. Rebel Wilson is her usual dominating presence. As much as I like her, I crave some subtlety from her performance. You know what you’re getting when Wilson is in a film. She’s going to be loud, overly-sexual, and she’s going to fall over… a lot. Wilson is just overbearing in this film. She’s too much. But I don’t think it’s her fault.

Honestly, I think if Wilson had been starring in this with anyone else she would have seemed less annoying. The simple fact is, Anne Hathaway shouldn’t do comedy. Remember when we felt sorry for her having to host the Oscars with James Franco? Maybe it wasn’t Hathaway that we should have felt sorry for? Because she has no sense of comic timing. She’s so cold and straight that she sucks the comedy out of everything. Hathaway approaches this role as an actor but not as a comedy performer. It’s fucking painful and that’s before we’ve even got on to her abysmal English accent. There isn’t one thing Hathaway does in this film that I enjoyed. Not one thing. If you’d had told me that the actor was on a secret mission to ruin ever comedy film she could, then I wouldn’t find it hard to believe. To quote Guardian critic, Peter Bradshaw, she is the “Death of Comedy.” Honestly, Hathaway was funnier in Les Miserables.

And I know it’s not exactly funny material. She’s not working with comedy gold here but it’s difficult to tell what’s meant to be a joke and what isn’t. Wilson isn’t exactly great here but she’s more comfortable. She tries to get some laughs out of what she’s working with. Wilson commits fully to the comedy whilst Hathaway commits fully to being prim and proper. It just proves that this film needn’t have existed. It added nothing to the story except to make it worse. The gender switch didn’t give us any great insight into gender and, actually, I would argue the Caine/Martin version is actually more beneficial to women than this. But I won’t do that here. I’m too annoyed by this fucking film to talk about it any longer. Too annoyed that it had so much potential that is wasted. Chris Addison, of Veep and The Thick of It fame, is here acting as director but, again, has no idea what to make of it. It’s like everyone working on this film came together to make it as unfunny as possible.


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