The Hustle 2019 ***

Updating Dirty Rotten Scoundrels/Bedtime Story for the MeToo era sounds like a tricky but interesting proposition; part of the original conceit was the idea of men betting on their ability to seduce women, so the concept is ripe to be revisited. And The Hustle gets things right from the of by casting rebel Wilson and Anne Hathaway, two female performers who can spark a laugh. But The Hustle falls short, and gets diverted from its purpose; There’s a good line near the start when Josephine Chesterfield (Hathaway) suggests to Penny Sharp (Wilson) that most men are easily conned ‘because they can’t believe that a woman might be smarter than them’. That sounds good, but the narrative completely upends that idea by having both of them fall for a man’s confidence trick, exactly what the audience don’t want to see. That said, there’s a few nice moments in the early set-up as Chesterfield encounters, rejects and then mentors the gauche Australian, as they prey on the rich and foolish men who holiday in The French Riviera resort of Beaumont Sur Mer. A set of hotel rooms called Suite Caroline’ gives a flavour of the humour, girlish, silly, but without the whiff of misogamy that makes the previous versions rather unpalatable today. Chris Addison keeps things moving, but plots and sub-plots feel unresolved, and the big laughs never quite materialise despite the game performances. The Hustle did well enough at the box-office, but remaking male films with female leads feels like a lazy answer; can’t women get a chance to establish IP of their own?


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