Gender-flipped remakes, such as What Men Want, Little and Ghostbusters, are being rolled out religiously and, for the most part, successfully. It’s about time audiences enjoyed female-centric films that put a spin on male-dominated genres.
A remake of the 1988 film Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, The Hustle pits two rival female con artists against each other. Set on the French Riviera, the film opens with an introduction to Penny Rust (Rebel Wilson), a small-time Australian con woman who is seen dodging the police as she tries to swindle money from young men at bars.
She takes the train to Beaumont-sur-Mer, where she runs into high-class con artist Josephine Chesterfield (Anne Hathaway), who is not too pleased with a newcomer taking over her territory. There can only be one con queen running the game in town.
When she realizes that Penny isn’t leaving anytime soon, Josephine decides to train her and they join forces. However, that arrangement doesn’t work for long and they make a wager: the first to swindle $500,000 from geeky tech billionaire Thomas, played by Alex Sharp, will claim Beaumont-sur-Mer as their turf.
Anne Hathaway clearly relishes playing the several “personas” she inhabits — whether it’s a dimwit American woman, an emotional royal or a German physician. It shows how well-rounded she is as an actress and proves she has impeccable comedic timing. The film played on her strengths, but she could have been given more punch lines. Plus, the German accent was difficult to understand.
Rebel Wilson infuses her personality into every scene, dishing dialogue as if she’s improvising — making the scenes her own. She hilariously uses her body as a pillow, bouncing off walls and into men — thereby leaving her mark on the comedy front. She pulls off every character with ease. While she delivers her punch lines like a pro, she also brings out Penny’s vulnerability. I was surprised at how smoothly she shifted gears.
The film is a tried-and-true formula, so you will probably see the plot twists coming. The strength of any film relies on its script and its cast — while the con artist script is all too predictable, it balances on the shoulders of its two lead stars. I wasn’t sure if this duo would make a winning combo, and much to my surprise, Rebel and Anne play well off each other, feeding on the energy and chutzpah that they each bring to the game. While Rebel channels Penny with vigor, spunk and profanity, Anne casually slips into the shoes of Josephine, the confident (and icy) queen of con.
This crime caper is a classic con artist film packed with lighthearted humor, delivering chuckles along the way. If you’ve lived on a steady diet of male-led comedy, this puts a different spin on the genre. ~Marriska Fernandes