Film: “The Hustle”; Director: Chris Addison; Cast: Anne Hathaway, Rebel Wilson, Alex Sharp, Ingrid Oliver and Nicholas Woodeson; Rating: **
“The Hustle” is a gender-swapped rehash of “buddy films” featuring tricksters who are out to outwit each other and con people of their money. The films that immediately come to your mind are the 1964 released “Bedtime Story” starring David Niven and Marlon Brando, and the 1988 released “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” featuring Michael Caine and Steve Martin.
Director Chris Addison replaces the heroes of the original with women, so here we have Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson playing high-stake fraudsters who swindle naive people. She does so probably, as Hathaway’s character puts it, “men can’t imagine that a woman is cleverer than they are.” And she fails miserably.
Set in the sophisticated but fictional town of Beaumont-sur-Mer, Josephine Chesterfield (Anne Hathaway), a glamorous seductress fleeces gullible wealthy men from all corners of the world. Into her well-ordered, meticulously schemed universe, bursts a small-time trickster Penny Rust (Rebel Wilson) an Australian who is diametrically opposite to Josephine in disposition.
“I didn’t know how small I was till I met you,” confesses Penny to Josephine when they are at loggerheads with each other.
Despite their different methods, both are masters in the art of swindling and to prove their superiority amongst themselves they challenge to outdo the other by fleecing Thomas Westerburg (Alex Sharp), a naive tech billionaire. The contradictions between Josephine’s elegance and Penny’s vulgarity and the different comedy styles that they offer, are the focus of the film.
But unfortunately, the writing is mediocre. The gags are crass, half-baked and badly stitched into the narrative. The performances too are nothing to write home about. Hathaway and Wilson have great chemistry, but it is simply not palpable on screen.
Hathaway’s accent sounds phony, it undermines her performance, and somewhat takes away the good comic work she does in the film.
Rebel Wilson as Penny is her usual comic self. Her shenanigans occasionally work, but most of the time appear forced or out of place within the highbrow humour the film strives for.
Apart from the two leads, Alex Sharp as Thomas Westerburg is quite impressive. He effortlessly brings about a sharp contrast to his character and leaves his imprint in the minds of the audience. The rest of the supporting cast of the film is littered with relative newcomers who don’t provide memorable moments.
Overall, despite a shabby display of histrionics and a badly mounted script, there are moments of sheer fun that would appeal largely to the millennial female audience. The rest would find this film plain and tedious.