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The Hustle Lacks Comedic Precision

2 min read

Anne Hathaway stars as Josephine Chesterfield and Rebel Wilson as Penny Rust in THE HUSTLE, a Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures film.Credit: Christian Black / Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures© 2018 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Should remakes exist? Should gender-swapped remakes exist? Obviously, the answer should be yes, if the story is endearing enough and the new adaption would bring a new or unseen perspective to the source material. Most of the time, gender-swapped remakes are flipped from male to female, setting itself up for failure especially if the original is beloved (see 2016’s Ghostbusters). So if you are making a gender-swapped remake focusing on female characters, hopefully, that new adaption would be written and directed by women. Unfortunately, The Hustle is not any of those things and its lack of female perspective shows.

A remake of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, which is actually a remake of the 1964 Marlon Brando vehicle Bedtime Story, The Hustle follows two con-women (Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson) competing for a tech guru’s fortune (Alex Sharp). Hijinks ensue, putting woman against woman, testing how far both will go for the con. The film tries to make feminist statements, that all bodies are valid, that women can be as devious and cunning as males, only to contradict themselves over and over again.

To make an adversarial buddy comedy work, you need leads that have chemistry with each other. Hathaway and Wilson have a few endearing moments, but their gags and cleverness overall fall flat. Alex Sharp and Wilson have a spark but it is not flamed at all. Sharp’s accent fumbles at times, which may have been a character choice but was not prominent enough to distinguish throughout the film.

Four writers are credited to this screenplay, which is never a good sign. The script isn’t funny and character backstories and relationships are not well established. This could have been a super progressive feminist heist film, instead, it gives into stereotypes and outdated conventions. Jokes about Wilson’s body or Hathaway’s bitchiness get old after awhile. The film could’ve worked if the leads switched roles, Hathaway playing the messy and reckless novice grifter and Wilson as the more refined and experienced con-woman. Both actresses haven’t played roles like that and would have made the film less predictable and easier to stomach.

Grade: D-