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Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson's new movie is absurd but brilliant.

Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson’s new movie The Hustle is, in a word, absurd.

Which is exactly what makes it so enjoyable to watch.

The term ‘popcorn movie’ often gets thrown around with a touch of careless disdain, but really, there’s a special skill and definite art to making a movie that allows you to happily relax your tense shoulders the moment the story kicks into gear and chuckle in the dark for two hours while enjoying a hot buttery snack.

This particular popcorn flick is a remake of the hit 1988 comedy Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, which starred Steve Martin and Michael Caine, and I’m sure the consensus among many will be that the original, male-led version was so much better than the 2019 offering.

But the truth is that although Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and The Hustle follow very similar story beats and plot twists, the enjoyment of one movie in no way cancels out the other. There’s very much room for both of these offerings in the comedy sphere.

In The Hustle, Anne Hathaway plays Josephine Chesterfield, a ruthless and sophisticated con artist operating in Beaumont-sur-Mer on the French Riviera. Residing in a plush seaside mansion and having the tourist-filled town perfectly wired to her sneaky needs, Josephine spends her days artfully conning men out of everything from large sums of money to decadent jewels.

It’s a pretty sweet system, until she encounters small-time scammer Penny (Rebel Wilson) on a train. At first, she’s quite impressed with the newcomer’s sloppy yet effective cons and tricks, watching as she scores a free five-course meal by making the man beside her believe her virginal sister has been abducted and held for ransom. But her small touch of grudging respect quickly turns to annoyance when Penny also sets up shop in Beaumont-sur-Mer and begins to swindle men out of their belongings.

Take a look at the trailer for The Hustle. Post continues after. 

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Fearful that Penny’s over the top antics will frighten away the town’s wealthy male tourist population, Josephine sets about arranging for her to leave town. Until of course Penny discovers who she really is and threatens to expose her opulent web of lies unless Josephine agrees to take her in and teach her the ways of the con.

These are the moments of the film that really sing.

The con artist training montages between Josephine and Penny are moments of perfectly orchestrated physical comedy and the gags come thick and fast as they master everything from dancing to knife-throwing.

Once Penny is deemed ready by Josephine to actually be kicked out of the nest and start conning some rich and decidedly sleazy men out of their cash the whole thing dissolves into complete absurdist humour.

During the con scenes, the two actresses whip through costume changes, lay on a new thick accent every few minutes and generally act like two intoxicated theatre sports performers whose lives depend on making you laugh. It’s glorious to watch, particularly when they pull the ‘Lord of the Rings’ con, where Penny plays Josephine’s decrepit and grotesque little sister in a series of acts where they procure opulent engagement rings from their marks.

When talking about The Hustle it has been said that Rebel Wilson has merely recycled one of her past characters into a new role, a statement that does have a little truth to it.

It’s true that in this case, Rebel’s Penny relies on a similar style of comedy that we’ve seen her whip out in the Pitch Perfect franchise and in Isn’t It Romantic. However, it’s not a new idea for a performer to perfectly hone a signature character and then use them in a series of different projects. It’s something actors such as Adam Sandler, Seth Rogen and Kevin James have been doing for decades and no one tends to bat an eye at that.

Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson clearly had a ball making this movie and it comes across so clearly on screen. The Hustle is an absurdist comedy well worth seeing.

The Hustle is playing in cinemas Australia-wide now. It is rated M.

For more stories like this, you can follow Mamamia Entertainment Editor Laura Brodnik on Facebook.  You can also visit our newsletter page and sign up to “TV and Movies”  for a backstage pass to the best movies, TV shows and celebrity interviews (see one of her newsletters here). 

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