Conartists match their wits in The Hustle

19 May 2019 | Art and Entertainment

Comedy is in a weird place these days. Stand-up performers and late-night television hosts lean into the politics of the moment, while most movies with an urge to be funny tread cautiously, afraid of offending any segment of the audience.

The Hustle does some of that — it pushes no buttons and tests no boundaries. The movie closely replicates a film from 1988 Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, directed by Chris Addison and starring Michael Caine and Steve Martin.

As with the older version, The Hustle tells the tale of two rival con artists matching wits against the picturesque backdrop of the French Riviera. Josephine (Anne Hathaway) lives in ill-gotten luxury in the (fictional) village of Beaumont-sur-Mer, assisted by two loyal, scene-stealing confederates (Ingrid Oliver and Nicholas Woodeson) as she schemes to relieve vain, wealthy men of their money.

Penny (Rebel Wilson) pursues a similar racket in less refined circumstances and with less elegant methods. Her go-to grift is a modified version of cat-fishing, in which she confabulates a hot sister in desperate need of surgery. Her arrival in Beaumont is an annoyance to Josephine, who objects to the competition and also to Penny's exuberant vulgarity.

According to the New York Times, you will probably see the major plot twists coming, but you won't necessarily enjoy what happens any less. Elegant swindlers in an opulent Mediterranean setting are pretty irresistible, and there's something reassuring about a story that could have been told, with some variations of tone and topicality, at any point in the last hundred years or so.

The humour relies on their physical and temperamental contrasts. Hathaway, affecting an upper-crusty accent as Josephine's default voice (she has others when she needs them), savours her own chilliness and weaponizes her self-control. Wilson is the opposite — anarchic, profane, warm and obnoxious, using her body like a throw pillow and her voice like a car alarm.

If you're in the mood for a laugh, grab your girlfriends and start planning a girl's night out. WE give this film 4 out of 5.



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