Why The Hustle Is Only Kind Of A Remake

Photo: Courtesy of Christian Black/Copyright u00a9 2018 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.
If Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson’s brand new crime comedy, The Hustle, looks familiar, it’s because it should — but maybe only if you’re a big fan of early Steve Martin and Michael Caine crime comedies. While The Hustle isn’t necessarily a straight remake, it is a gender-swapped revival with Hathaway and Wilson taking on the roles from these early predecessors in 1988’s Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, and also 2004’s Dirty Rotten Scoundrels: The Musical on Broadway (which starred John Lithgow and Norbert Leo Butz). But even Dirty Rotten Scoundrels can trace its roots and stories back to a 1964 Marlon Brando comedy, Bedtime Stories. So it’s safe to say that the story of two con artists trying to swindle money away from the rich is a tale as old as time, and not going out of style anytime soon.
With The Hustle, the concept is getting some fresh faces and new life for 2019. Honestly, it needed the update. As Wilson noted to Entertainment Weekly, “With Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, they were playing into women’s romantic ideas about men and they were kind of taking advantage of silly women — we’re taking advantage of men who have actively harmful ideas of what women are. So I do think maybe, in that sense, it’s a little more pointed.”
The story of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is your typical con-man down-on-his-luck story about a guy named Freddy who hasn’t hit it big in a while. In steps in a more established con-man named Lawrence who takes Freddy under his wing and the two pick a mark (Janet, a well-off woman visiting the French Riviera), to try and swindle money from. Bedtime Stories roughly follows this same exact plot, even down to the characters names of Freddy, Lawrence, and Janet. Without spoiling too much, something goes wrong during the con, then all the things go wrong for Freddy, Lawrence, and Janet. Only one of them is actually able to walk away having made a profit at the end.
The Hustle, thankfully, swaps out the names Freddy and Lawrence, for Wilson’s Lonnie and Hathaway’s Josephine. It’s safe to assume that some misfortune will befall the two of them on their way to making a clean getaway from their target, Alex Sharp’s Thomas.
While clearly, the movie can trace its DNA back to the movies that came before it — it even takes place in the same exact location as the others, the South of France — Wilson and Hathaway are quick to shoot down the idea that it’s truly a remake, since they’ve made it their own.
In an interview with Page Six, Wilson explained, “[The Hustle] is really kick ass. It’s two women teaming up. Of course, we made a few changes.”
Hathway then added, “Changing the genders opened up the film, so this remake doesn’t feel like a remake. It’s its own thing. In this, I have to have a British accent, German accent, and an Australian accent. I speak Dutch, French and even sign language.” You don’t see Michael Caine doing that in the OG one.
Hopefully, with the release of The Hustle, the Dirty Rotten Scoundrels cycle is started up again, and in a few years, we can find both Hathaway and Wilson reprising their roles on Broadway for the movie-musical. Both can certainly sing, and if the men get multiple shots at this story, it’s only fair if the women do, too.

More from Movies

R29 Original Series