I was truly excited for this flick, but my expectations were low and minimal. I just wanted to see Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson in a good ole comedy. What I wasn’t expecting was to feel pure embarrassment in the first few seconds. Any time a film opens with 'Lips Are Movin' by Meghan Trainor, that should tell you everything you need to know. No film has ever made me want to leave a theater so bad since 2002’s The Tuxedo, and that is really hard to do, my dudes.
Directed by Chris Addison, this is a remake of the 1988 title Dirty Rotten Scoundrels which stars Michael Crane and Steve Martin. Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is based off the script of the 1964 film titled Bedtime Stories with Marlon Brando and David Niven as the cons. I have yet to see either, but from watching the DRS trailer, The Hustle is without a doubt a ruthless carbon copy. I’m not familiar with Addison’s work, but I’m assuming this was a starter film for him. He seems to play it safe, not being too risky. For example, there’s a handful of subtle female empowerment lines, but not to the point of choking us to death. I’m still confused as to why two great actresses were not challenged to their full comedic potential, but hopefully in the future we will see him blossom some more. But unfortunately for this film, I was extremely bored to a point of restlessness in my seat. During the second act I dared to peek at the time on my phone because I needed it to be over already.
Rebel Wilson plays Penny Rust, a local con-woman who regularly rips off men for supposed boob job money. Anne Hathaway plays Josephine, a more sophisticated con artist who targets elite men with help from her small team of accomplices. When Penny travels to a southern French town, she meets Josephine, who immediately makes it clear that Beaumont-sur-Mer is her turf. When Penny threatens to use Josephine’s schemes against her as blackmail, she agrees to teach Penny her skills. From there on out, it slowly becomes a desperate competition to drain the bank account of an unlikely target. The tagline on the poster suggests they're going to be “giving dirty rotten men a run for their money,” which is an obvious call back to the 1988 film. Clever, so I thought. However, Penny and Josephine become scoundrels themselves, fooling men that aren’t given a lot of examples as to how they’re dirty or rotten. *Spoiler Alert?* For example, at one point, Josephine puts on a cheap act to get seemingly boring rich guys to propose to her, then scare them into leaving her and the ring behind. There’s really only two for sure dirtbags we see which are in each of Penny and Josephine’s introduction scenes. Other than that, we’re not sure how dirty the other men are, if at all. The fun of exploring the different targets is completely absent. Above all else, it’s a story about serendipitous friendship and that’s the importance I took away.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
The jokes are scarce with this one. There were only a couple times I snorted at a clever delivery. This isn’t an action based comedy, yet the dialogue that should be making up for that is floating up in space somewhere. If you’re into Rebel Wilson playing the same character in the spirit of Fat Amy from Pitch Perfect, you’re sort of in luck. I already expected this seeing the trailer, but to my surprise, she toned it down. I’m not sure if it was by direction, but it definitely felt tired. She fits the part, but doesn’t seem to want to do anything new as Penny.
Anne Hathaway spruced up her serious Les Mis English accent for a more campy style. Josephine is a bubbly European with a touch of Katherine Hepburn transatlantic vibes. New to the big screen from broadway is Alex Sharp, who plays Thomas Westerburg, the quirky and sensitive App inventor. Thomas was the perfect balance of innocence in the midst of Josephine and Penny’s shenanigans.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
All I can remember is Eiffel Tower cafe music swimming in the back of the most awkward scenes. I know, I know. It’s supposed to set a comical tone, but since the dialogue wasn’t funny, this didn’t save it.
A big kudos to the art directors. I normally despise the production design in commercial comedies for being really basic, but this was unexpected. The colors were either red and white accent or blue with white that gave a modern, up to date feel to vintage French locations. Side note: I need every outfit Josephine wears. Also, I’m a sucker for good credit sequences. The animated beginning credits is one great reason to watch this film, if only just for that. It’s very 60s inspired which includes the blue and red scheme.
It is important to note that this was a strict remake, simply swapping the men with women. It wasn’t a repurposed story tailored for women. Here we had an opportunity to normalize placing them in traditional male roles without making it look forced. I hoped that the actresses would be able to tailor the roles themselves along with mindful direction to do something really fun. Instead I walked away feeling nothing but the absolute dread of having to think about this film again in order to write this review… and with that Eiffel Tower cafe music still stuck in my damn head.