Movie Review: “The Hustle”
Josephine Chesterfield (Anne Hathaway) is an incredibly successful con-artist. She lives in a very wealthy city, filled with wealthy men just waiting to be taken advantage of. Josephine believes (and has the success to back up her claims) that women make the ultimate con-artists. Men easily assume they are stronger, smarter, and more cunning than women. Most importantly, she believes that men like to save “vulnerable” women, so she frequently plays the damsel in distress as a means of conning her targets.
Penny (Rebel Wilson) is another con-artist, but tends to take advantage of smaller targets than Josephine. She has found her own level of success, but decides to move to a wealthier city to increase the scale (and the gains) of her efforts. The city Penny chooses just so happens to be the same city that Josephine calls home. Penny is not the elegant con-artist that Josephine is, but she is successful in her own way. Penny’s methods are unorthodox, and she has long way to go before she can handle the high-level cons that Josephine pulls off regularly, but Josephine sees potential. With the right training, Josephine may finally be able to pull of a con that she has always had her sights on. It is a con that requires two women, and Josephine may have just found her partner.
The Pros & Cons
Rebel Wilson (+5pts)
Anne Hathaway (-6pts)
Alex Sharp (+4pts)
The Plot & The Cons (-8pts)
The Bet (+3pts)
The Ending (-4pts)
Pro: Rebel Wilson (+5pts)
There were some scenes where Rebel Wilson definitely over-did it. However, for the most part, her style of comedy worked really well for this movie. Her character was a lower-class version of Josephine, so the pairing of the two characters worked. It worked because, while Josephine tries to be elegant and classy, Penny is very far from either of those things. She does her own thing, and the clash of these two styles provided a lot of the movie’s comedy (with Penny being the more comedic of the two characters).
Rebel Wilson played this part well. There was a bit of drama for her character, and she did a decent enough job with it. However you go to this movie hoping for Rebel Wilson’s style of comedy and she brought it. Some scenes felt like she over-did it, but I blame that on the directing more than the acting. There were unfortunately not any laugh out loud moments, but Rebel Wilson had me chuckling throughout the majority of the movie.
Con: Anne Hathaway (-6pts)
I really wish this was not the case, but I really did not like Josephine or Anne Hathaway’s performance in this movie. Dramatically, Anne Hathaway did fine (I have no complaints there). However, I just could not get over her character’s terrible accent in this movie. It sounded very fake, and took me out of the movie whenever she spoke (which was a lot). Surprisingly, there was another accent used later in the movie. This one was fine and felt natural. Unfortunately, the accent she used for the majority of the movie was the one that the one that I really did not like (and the most unfortunate thing about this was that the accent was completely unnecessary).
Now for what I disliked about Josephine. For a character that was supposed to come across as cunning and intelligent, she was surprisingly dumb. Her actions seemed to contradict her motives (which I will get into later in this review). The movie also never really showed how she was a better con-artist than Penny. Most of her “skills” do not seem to have anything to do with conning people. The character also never supports her claim of why women make better con artists than men. The character made the same mistakes that she claimed men make. The character just came across as very poorly written and, mixed with a terrible accent, made for a weak main character.
Pro: Alex Sharp (+4pts)
I do not want to say too much about his character, as it would spoil some key plot points from the movie (I know you are worried about “The Hustle” spoilers), but I thought Alex Sharp did a pretty good job in this role. I have not seen this actor before, but he did exactly what this character needed from him. He came across as both kind and innocent, and he delivered on the conclusion of this character’s story. I will get into why I did not like that conclusion later in this review, but know that I thought Alex Sharp’s performance was not to blame for my issues with that ending.
Con: The Plot & The Cons (-8pts)
Without giving anything away, this movie goes in a completely different direction than the trailers suggest. I was totally okay with this other direction, but the writers seemed to ignore all logic when writing this story. It did not make sense for Josephine to teach Penny anything (the reason the story gives us does not hold up). Additionally, The training that Josephine gave Penny did not make any sense either (as there was no connection between the training tasks and the cons that the two would try to pull off).
Unfortunately, the cons themselves did not make any sense either. They were funny, but they relied heavily on the victim behaving in a very specific way. I would have bought this working once or twice, but their success rate made no sense. I know I should not have gone into this movie expecting the plot to be perfect, but the writers seemed to ignore all logic when writing this story.
Pro: The Bet (+3pts)
Again, I will keep this brief to avoid spoilers (as the trailers do not hint at this aspect of the story). Basically, Penny and Josephine make a sort of challenge between the two of them. I will not give away what the challenge is or what the stakes are, but the challenge is to basically see who the better con artist is. I liked this part of the story, although I felt like it could have gotten more focus. I would have liked a challenge that saw each of them trying different things, and would have liked if more of the film’s runtime was devoted to this (as this is when I thought the movie was at its best).
Con: The Ending (-4pts)
The ending of this movie was a classic example of the filmmakers worrying more about setting up potential sequels, rather than focusing on making this movie good. The movie seemed like it had a normal, satisfying ending that would have wrapped up each of the main characters’ storylines. Then it kept going, and delivered another ending that was meant to surprise the audience (without really making sense), with the intent of setting up a potential sequel. Then it kept going again, and delivered another ending that changed what that sequel would be about. It was as if the filmmakers made this movie, then decided they had no idea how they wanted to end it, so shot a bunch of additional scenes that did not feel like they fit with the rest of the story. My biggest issue with these final scenes was that they completely changed characters’ stories (in a bad, unrealistic sort of way), just for an attempted quick laugh and to set up sequels that may never happen.
Grade: D+ (69pts)
The Hustle had a premise and a cast that could have worked well together. Rebel Wilson was, arguably, this movie’s greatest strength. Her style of comedy worked well with this story, but there were times that it felt like she was over-doing it. Alex Sharp was also good in his role, but I do not want to get into details about his character (to avoid spoilers). Unfortunately, I thought that this movie’s more redeeming qualities were far outweighed by its issues.
Anne Hathaway did a good enough job of hitting her character’s comedic and dramatic moments. However, her accent felt very fake, as well as unnecessary, and was tough to get through. This, mixed with a character that made countless illogical decisions, made for a weak main character. On top of that, the entire plot of this movie was filled with illogical decisions and plot holes. The filmmakers were also too concerned with setting up potential sequels, and (as a result) failed to give this movie an effective conclusion. The movie certainly had potential but, due to poor writing and poor direction, ended up being a dud.