The Hustle (2019) was a very bland comedy whose beats were unbelievably predictable. A remake of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988), the film centers around Josephine Chesterfield (Anne Hathaway), a con artist who sees men as easy targets. Penny (Rebel Wilson), a con artist in her own right, meets Josephine while riding on a train in France. Josephine is clearly a class above, and Penny seeks her guidance – but Josephine just wants Penny gone.
The Hustle stole my wallet while I was distracted by another obnoxious “comedic” performance
Hathaway gives another solid performance and continues to remind audiences why we enjoy seeing her in basically anything. Unfortunately, she doesn’t have a strong comedic partner in this film. Wilson’s style never seems to work for me outside of the first Pitch Perfect, and this year’s Isn’t it Romantic (2019). Her style always feels like someone trying to improvise her lines, and usually, the jokes are dumb and never fully land.
Fortunately, Alex Sharp is a surprising pleasure in the film. He plays Thomas, who becomes the target of Penny and Josephine’s bet at who is the better con artist. He has a goofy, boyish charm that just works for several of the scenes. One of the film’s more enjoyable moments comes as a result of Thomas’s actions which manage to stun Penny into silence. The three do have a bit of chemistry, making the scenes with them all far more tolerable than much of the rest of the film.
Oddly, the most laugh-out-loud moments come from Albert (Nicholas Woodeson), who is Josephine’s butler and assistant in many of the cons. His distaste of Penny works as an audience surrogate, so every time he has the opportunity to mess with her, it elicits some laughs. The biggest comes at Penny’s expense, when she has found herself stuck and Albert has the solution she needs. He gives it to her but places it just out of her immediate reach before walking away, mocking her.
One of the worst parts of the film is the montage around one of the cons that Josephine now finds possible because of Penny. We get a series of over-the-top silliness that isn’t funny and is just more of the nonsense that Wilson often uses to try and garner laughs. The sequence is painful and really feels like it could have been dedicated to a much better series of cons than what we get.
While The Hustle doesn’t give its audience much to enjoy, it does clock in right around 90 minutes. If you don’t mind Rebel Wilson’s typical character and comedic styling, then you may find more joy in this film than I did. It didn’t help that our screening contained a group of 12-year-olds who clearly had zero interest in seeing the movie, but wasn’t quite ready to go home yet. Usually, people talking during a movie drives me crazy, because I want to hear the thing I paid for – but I found it only slightly irritated me this time around. The Hustle earns the Not a Total Waste of Time rating.