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In the picture

Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson portray two con artists in The Hustle, donning the roles that were played so amusingly in the eighties classic ­by Michael Caine and Steve Martin; this look back at how

In the picture

Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson portray two con artists in The Hustle, donning the roles that were played so amusingly in the eighties classic ­by Michael Caine and Steve Martin; this look back at how Reginald Dwight became Elton John in Rocketman is one of the better rock star biopics in recent years, and easily surpasses movies like last year’s subpar Bohemian Rhapsody.

 

The Hustle*1/2

*ing: Anne Hathaway, Rebel Wilson, Alex Sharp, and Ingrid Oliver

Directed by Chris Addison

Not content with just making remakes, Hollywood likes to mix things up by also making remakes of remakes. Because why not. Their latest feat of re-recycling arrives in the form of the supposed comedy The Hustle, a gender swapped remake of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988) which was itself a remake of Bedtime Story (1964). It’s all exactly as unnecessary as it sounds.

Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson portray two con artists, donning the roles that were played so amusingly in the eighties classic by Michael Caine and Steve Martin.

Sophisticated Josephine (Hathaway) and unrefined Penny (Wilson) are both swindlers who target rich men, although the former is far more successful than the latter. When the two cross paths, Penny asks the more experienced Josephine to teach her the art of conning. Josephine reluctantly takes Penny under her wing, but ultimately wants to get rid of the intruding trickster, unwilling to share her territory. The two eventually make a bet – the first to con a young tech millionaire (Alex Sharp) will win while the other will have to leave town.

IMG-3Beyond the gender swap, The Hustle doesn’t make any significant changes to Dirty Rotten Scoundrel’s basic plot points, and therein is one of its most glaring problems.

Knowing how things will end not only drains the movie of any potential excitement, but the gender flip also robs the story of the sly feminist twist that the 1988 film delivered so cleverly.

Its other main problem, of course, is that it just isn’t very good. The script the ladies are working with is too weak to generate any laughs. And as charming as Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson can be in the right roles, you can’t really expect them to top Caine and Martin. Both seem miscast here; Wilson just sticks to her shtick yet again, while Hathaway deserves to be in a better project more suitable to her comedic skills.

All in all, The Hustle is an unfunny misfire that can neither match the wit and smarts of its predecessor, nor bring anything new to the storyline or make the most of its female spin.

 

Rocketman***

*ing: Taron Egerton, Jamie Bell, Richard Madden, and Bryce Dallas Howard

Directed by Dexter Fletcher

IMG-4The life and music of singer Elton John has inspired Rocketman, a musical fantasy that charts the rise of the English icon and the issues he had to deal with along the way.

The biopic takes the shape of an extended addiction rehabilitation session, as a flamboyantly dressed Elton John (played by a fantastic Taron Egerton) enters group counselling and starts recounting his life in flashbacks.

The movie takes a look at the musician’s childhood and his strained relationship with his parents, ultimately focusing on how his prodigal musical talents led to an astoundingly successful career as a performing artist and how he then ended up struggling with drug addiction and depression. At the heart of the film is the singer’s musical partnership and enduring friendship with lyricist Bernie Taupin (Jamie Bell).

His sexuality is also explored in the movie, including his relationship with manager John Reid (Richard Madden) and a short-lived marriage to German recording engineer Renate Blauel (Celinde Schoenmaker).

Rocketman offers insight into how someone can be so successful, yet so troubled at the same time. Elton is depicted here as a gifted musician but flawed human, and brought to life magnificently by Taron Egerton who simply nails the part. The actor is perfectly cast in the lead role, and both his singing and acting elevate the proceedings and wonderfully mirrors his real life counterpart.

IMG-6The big, bright, bold musical intertwines Elton John’s songs with the narrative and captures the zest of his larger than life persona. The film is visually impressive; the costumes are beautiful. Dexter Fletcher’s unorthodox surrealistic fantasy approach is in keeping with the subject’s spirit and style, but it also detracts a bit from the biographical core. Also, the songs sometimes impact the pacing and get in the way of the narrative flow. And Rocketman’s depiction of fame and its comeback story elements prove to be a bit standard.

Ultimately though, this look back at how Reginald Dwight became Elton John is one of the better rock star biopics of recent years, and easily surpasses movies like last year’s subpar Bohemian Rhapsody. Plus, the project serves as a terrific showcase for Egerton’s clearly immense talent. The film is likely to please the musician’s fans as well as introduce him to a new audience and leave viewers with an appreciation for his work and journey.

 

Rating system:  *Not on your life  * ½ If you really must waste your time  ** Hardly worth the bother  ** ½ Okay for a slow afternoon only  *** Good enough for a look see  *** ½ Recommended viewing  **** Don’t miss it  **** ½ Almost perfect  ***** Perfection

Sameen Amer

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