“THE HUSTLE” A MISFIRED COMEDY; THE NBC FALL SEASON
A Film and TV Review by Tim Riley
THE HUSTLE (Rated PG-13)Three decades ago, in “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” Michael Caine was the debonair con artist who was challenged by the lowbrow Steve Martin in a competition to claim the turf of a swank French Riviera resort.“The Hustle” is a gender-swap of the same premise, with Anne Hathaway’s Josephine Chesterfield, a seemingly aristocratic Brit who works cons at a glitzy casino in the south of France town of Beaumont-sur-Mer.
A master criminal, Josephine lives in a glamorous seaside mansion with snooty butler Albert (Nicolas Woodeson) as an accomplice. She’s also assisted by corrupt local police captain Brigitte Desjardins (Ingrid Oliver).
Meanwhile, in New York City, Rebel Wilson’s low-rent Penny Rust is running small-time online scams to sucker gullible men into helping her fictitious sister, who looks like a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model.Running into trouble with the law, Penny takes her con artist talents to Europe, where she meets Josephine on a train, and then ends up in the same French coastal town to horn in on Josephine’s action, just like Steve Martin did to Michael Caine.
Josephine’s well-ordered world is upended by the brash Penny, an Aussie who is as free-form and fun-loving as the seductive Josephine is calculated and cunning in targeting wealthy men. Where Penny plied her trade ripping off her marks in neighborhood bars, Josephine fills her safe with massive diamonds after ensnaring her prey at an upscale resort. Despite their different methods, they are masters of the art of the fleece, albeit on dissimilar scales.
The stakes get considerably higher when young tech billionaire Thomas Westerburg (Alex Sharp), seemingly naïve and kind-hearted, comes into play as the next target for the grafters.But just like the movie that inspired “The Hustle,” Penny and Josephine up the ante with a bet that the first one to scam Thomas out of $500,000 wins, and the loser has to leave town.
Penny resorts to faking blindness to gain the upper-hand, but Josephine poses as a renowned German psychologist who would be able to cure what is perceived to be a medical condition that Thomas describes as hysterical blindness. Rebel Wilson tries to liven up things with her physical slapstick routines. A few one-liners land with a punch, but other than that there is little humor in “The Hustle.”
The result is that this so-called comedy tries to con the audience out of its money. Don’t fall for the scam. If anything, just watch “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” instead.
THE NBC FALL SEASON
This is the time of the year that the major television networks conduct the upfront sessions to pitch advertisers for their upcoming series premieres for the fall season. Greater press interest kicks in during the summer press tour in July and August, but for now we can get a peek at the early information that networks release.
NBC has its sights set on one new drama series and two comedies, all of three of which feature lead actors already known for their television experience.The one-hour drama series “Bluff City Law” stars Jimmy Smits as lawyer Elijah Strait at a celebrated Memphis firm. Smits is best known for playing an attorney on NBC’s “L.A. Law” and “The West Wing,” and ABC’s “NYPD Blue.”
Caitlin McGee, in the role of Strait’s daughter Sydney, used to work at her father’s firm until their tumultuous relationship got in the way.After barely speaking to him for years, Sydney is suddenly thrust back into the family fold when her mother passes away, and then, hoping to reconnect with the daughter he loves, Elijah asks Sydney to rejoin the firm.
She agrees despite her lingering resentment and distrust because working alongside her father is her best hope at changing the world, if they can ever get along.Though he has been in many TV series, Kal Penn made his mark in the “Harold & Kumar” movies. In the half-hour comedy “Sunnyside,” Penn’s Garrett Modi had been living the American Dream as the youngest New York City Councilman ever.
As a politician, he was rubbing elbows with the elite and attending star-studded parties. His focus on the glamour of the office, instead of doing the job, put him on a downward spiral when he’s busted for public intoxication.Naturally, his stupidity was caught on tape and ended his career. Now, Garrett’s crashing with his sister and wondering where it all went wrong, until he starts working with a diverse group of idealists.
Bradley Whitford, best known for “The West Wing,” stara as former Princeton music professor Arthur Cochran in “Perfect Harmony,” a half-hour comedy about finding inspiration in the most unlikely places.Stumbling into choir practice at a rural small-town church, the professor finds a group of singers who are out of tune in more ways than one.
Despite the ultimate clash of sensibilities, Arthur and his newfound cohorts may just be the perfect mix of individuals to help each other reinvent and rediscover a little happiness, just when they all need it most.