The Hustle (PG-13) ★★★

Rebel Wilson and Anne Hathaway star in ‘The Hustle.’ Photo Credit: MGM.

Girls’ Night Rental Potential

The premise of The Hustle, which involves dueling con artists in the French Riviera may seem eerily familiar to some moviegoers. Indeed, the comedy is essentially a remake Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988), except this time, there is a gender flip staring an unlikely female duo, Anne Hathaway (Ocean’s Eight, 2018) and Rebel Wilson (Pitch Perfect 3, 2017).

While the film lacks surprising plot twists and natural chemistry between the two main characters, the picturesque backdrop of the French Riviera and overall silliness of it, may be enough to attract audiences looking for something carefree. The Hustle is a light-hearted film where you can sit back and not have to think…much at all.

The film opens at a New York dive bar where Penny (Rebel Wilson) enters wearing a shiny, black leather dress (which later doubles as a garbage bag disguise) ready to meet a guy named Jeremy (Timothy Simons, ‘Veep’) who she connected with on a dating app. Just before Penny approaches, Jeremy smiles down at his phone looking at a photo of the blonde bombshell bimbo aka ‘girl of his dreams.’ As he looks up, Penny introduces herself and the look of confusion and disappointment instantly washes over his face. Penny explains that her ‘sister’ (‘girl in the photo’) isn’t comfortable meeting him until she has her $500 breast implant procedure. At this point, Jeremy is so entranced by this fantasy that he offers her cash on the spot.

Rebel Wilson and Anne Hathaway star in ‘The Hustle.’ Photo Credit: MGM.

Meanwhile, Josephine (Anne Hathaway) is sitting pretty in a full sequin dress at a Casino in Beaumont-sur-Mer, a (fictional) village in the French Rivera. She’s (pretending to be) an American girl who recently won the lottery and is looking to dupe the European gambler near her who assumes she’s as dumb as rocks. Before we know it, Josephine is approached by a cop (played by Ashley McGuire) and outed as a con artist in broad daylight. Audiences soon discover that McGuire is part of a bigger scam and that Josephine is now in possession of the gambler’s wife’s bracelet, which is worth a half a million dollars. This scene is quick and clever. If only the scams to follow were just as good…

Both women later meet on a train where audiences can distinguish the contrasting con artists – one low rent and the other high class. Both are ready get payback on the men who wronged them, but Josephine claims there is only room for one con queen in town.

Alex Sharp and Anne Hathaway star in ‘The Hustle.’ Photo Credit: MGM.

These frenemies endure a few rough patches before they agree to work together to con an American tech billionaire (Alex Sharp, The Sunlit Night, 2019) who looks as though he just graduated high school.

The humor has its very witty moments, but is mainly dominated by silly accents, staged slapstick and vulgar commentary. While Hathaway and Rebel give strong individual performances, their chemistry doesn’t fully click when they share the screen. Both actresses bring very different personalities to the project and while some would think that contrast would lend itself to a stellar comedy, that is unfortunately not the case. As the film progresses, it loses a bit of steam and begins to strain credibility, but it still keeps audiences’ attention as they wait for the next best move.

Bottom Line: This comedy may not be worth hustling to the theater, but if you are in the mood for a rainy day pick-me-up with a cheesy/predictable premise set along the French Riviera –  rent it. Rebel and Anne are bound to provide a chuckle even to the most cynical of audiences.

Credits: Directed by Chris Addison; Written by Stanley Shapiro, Paul Henning, Dale Launer and Jac Schaeffer

Starring: Rebel Wilson (Penny Rust), Anne Hathaway (Josephine Chesterfield), Alex Sharp (Thomas Westerburg), Nicholas Woodeson (Albert), Timothy Simons (Jeremy), Ashley McGuire (cop)

Studio: MGM

Running Time: 93 minutes

Jessica DeLong © May 9, 2019