No, your eyes are not deceiving you. That name in the title is Chris Addison, one of UK television’s beloved stand-up comedians, known for appearances on Mock the Week and QI. The Chris Addison who appeared in seven years worth of hit political dark comedy The Thick of It. That Chris is the man behind The Hustle, the latest in Hollywood’s female-led comedy attempts that are supposed to empower women worldwide, whilst proving that ‘they can be funny too’. Is it any good, or should Chris stick to his day-job?
Penny (Rebel Wilson) is a hustler, making her money and way through life by catfishing men into dates and swindling them of their cash. Josephine (Anne Hathaway) is cut from the same cloth, only something of a slightly higher thread count, doing her business in the South of France – she even has her own staff. Spotting Penny’s feeble attempts to win her way into the hearts (and wallets) of her victims, Josephine takes her under her wing to teach her her ‘sugar-baby ways’, from using prosthetics and false teeth to claiming you’re descended from British royalty.
With Josephine desperate to shift Penny from her money-making territory, they place a bet – whoever can con $500,000 from innocent tech nerd Thomas (Alex Sharp) gets to keep the money and can stay on in the area – the loser has to leave. As both concoct their own devious plans, it seems they’ll have to play each other – and themselves – to win.
As an all-female remake of 1988’s Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (which itself was a remake of 1964’s Bedtime Story), it’s fair to say the originals have nothing to be worried about. Where The Hustle could have opted for intelligent, quick, witty comedy, something Addison is beloved for, it has landed itself with lazy, predictable ‘dumb blonde’/’fat girl’ jokes. A sudden narrative twist even includes an ‘Essex girl’ slight, which feels odd if you’re unaware UK-based Addison is the director and it won’t land with international audiences.
Shamefully, the film does nothing to alter Wilson’s predictable typecasting (at this point, she seems to play the same silly, self-deprecating klutz in every feature) and plays up to it, poking fun at her physical appearance and using her looks as the butt of too many jokes. While Rebel herself may be comfortable and okay with this, I feel this will make too many audience members watching feel uncomfortable, especially in our current climate of body acceptance and celebration. Whether she’s intentionally made a career off of this character type or not, by now it’s a boring trope and The Hustle doesn’t bring anything new to it. In contrast, it’s great to see Hathaway leading another comedy, particularly after the success of Ocean’s Eight (2018), as she has a real knack for timing and characterisation – even if her accent work isn’t quite up to scratch. It’s such a shame it is in something as poor as this.
Filled with forgettable one-liners and clumsy slapstick, The Hustle bumbles along for 90 minutes, the only stand-out joke being so gross and unbelievable it conjures a laugh. Aside from that, it’s a dull attempt at buddy-comedy – you’d be better off spending your time watching some of Hathaway’s past laugh-out-loud’s like Love and Other Drugs, or Isn’t It Romantic, a recent hidden Netflix gem starring Wilson.