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The Hustle

By: Jolie Featherstone

Beautiful European locale?  Check.

Comedy that runs the gamut from social critique to slapstick?  Check.

Two smart and savvy women competing for the ultimate con?  Check!

The Hustle is a gender-swapped remake of the 1988 comedy Dirty Rotten Scoundrels that starred Michael Caine and Steve Martin.  In The Hustle, Penny (Rebel Wilson) is a street-smart and boisterous young woman who has taken to scamming the deadbeats dominating the dating scene in her city.  While taking a trip to Europe with her hard-earned scam money, she meets the intriguing and genteel Josephine Chesterfield (Anne Hathaway).  Penny soon learns that Josephine is a cutthroat con mastermind and works with her to hone her con-artist craft.  Mentor and protégé turn into rivals as the two con women compete for dominance of the lucrative French Riviera village that is rife with misogynistic men who are ripe for the scamming.

The laughs come hard, fast, and frequent in this con-movie send-up;  think 21 Jump Street meets Ocean’s 8.  Between clever banter and social commentary to slapstick and good ol’ bathroom humour, there is a laugh in this film for everyone.

Rebel Wilson is both star and producer.  It’s exciting to witness Wilson taking charge of her work in this way.  It allows for her to play go-for-broke, no-holds-barred comedic roles on her own terms.  She is reminiscent of Lucille Ball in this way: she is not afraid to make fun of herself in the service of comedy, but you know she is in control and calculated in her performance.  Wilson always services the comedy first in her work.  Her recent projects, including this year’s earlier release Isn’t It Romantic?, have shown her capabilities not only as a comedic actor, but as an actor that is keenly reflective.

Despite a history of playing comedic roles, Hathaway is frequently thought of as a predominantly dramatic actress.  So, you would be forgiven for being surprised by her comedic chops in The Hustle.  Hathaway and Wilson make a charming and highly entertaining Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis-esque odd couple.  Hathaway playing the straight woman, and Wilson playing the gregarious goof.  Their chemistry appears easy and natural;  they volley jokes off of each other with skilled timing and delivery.  It takes a skilled and nuanced actor to deliver laughs effectively in a straight role.  Hathaway, unsurprisingly, succeeds.

A raunchy and entertaining romp, The Hustle focuses equally, if not more so, on the characters than the mechanics of the scams.  This is not a drawback.  In fact, it gives the actors lots of room to play.  The initial plot twist was predictable.  The follow-up twist, however, was less expected and fun to watch unfold.  The entire audience (note: it was a full house) was in stitches throughout the entire film.  Enough said.

P.S. – con artist-training montages > make-over montages

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