While Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson have fine chemistry, The Hustle makes the poor mistake of having jokes at the expense of blind people.
The film may have a brisk pace and many jokes but one poor storytelling choice remains its downfall. Did anybody stop to think at any point during pre-production that maybe these jokes were in poor taste? I’m not even blind but even I would not go as far as to fake being blind in order to con someone out of a half million dollars. Surely, they could have chosen to do something else. Anything else would have been better!
We first meet Penny Rust (Rebel Wilson) while she’s trying to con Jeremy (Timothy Simons) after catfishing him for a month on an app. It’s not long after this when we meet British con artist Josephine Chesterfield (Anne Hathaway) actively working a con on an older man. Her con work had led to a mansion in Beaumont-sur-Mer in a city where she’s the queen in town. She has butler Albert (Nicholas Woodeson) and police captain Brigitte Desjardins (Ingrid Oliver) under her belt. She’s not about to share her town with Penny when the duo meet on the train. The two women play to their own skills and they couldn’t be more different. If Penny’s going to work with Josephine, she’s going to have to train hard for the money.
There’s the Lord of the Rings gag–only named after the trilogy but that’s it. It’s a gag that works best as a montage. It’s what follows that takes The Hustle into some upsetting territory. This is when Penny spots a young man and creator of a smartphone app, Thomas (Alex Sharp) by the pool. Josephine realizes the potential for money so it’s on for the two women to con him. The loser has to leave town forever. This is a segment of the film that would work better if Penny didn’t decide to fake being a blind woman. This leads to Josephine pretending to be German psychologist Frederica Schaffhausen. It may be decision that helps to win over Thomas but it’s a frustrating decision as far as comedy choices are concerned. I touched on it earlier and I’ll say it again: there were better options.
These two women are very different con women. They may have trained in a different manner but they each can teach the other some new tricks. Anyway, this film is inspired by the likes of Bedtime Story and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. It’s not a straight-out gender-swapped remake because that would just be lazy filmmaking altogether. They try to bring some originality here but again, they get into some lazy storytelling choices.
The film does have some good things going for it like the stunning costume and production design. Who wouldn’t want to wear some of these outfits? No, seriously, I want to own many of the outfits that we see Anne Hathaway wearing in the film!
The Hustle may have laughs but making fun of the blind is what earns this film a red card.
DIRECTOR: Chris Addison
SCREENWRITERS: Stanley Shapiro & Paul Henning and Dale Launer and Jac Schaeffer
CAST: Anne Hathaway, Rebel Wilson, Alex Sharp