The Hustle Trailer and the Rise of the Female Buddy Comedy
The Dirty Rotten Scoundrels remake gives us what we want: funny women together onscreen.
The trailer for The Hustle, starring Anne Hathaway as a pro British con artist and Rebel Wilson as the amateur she takes under her wing, has landed. The film is a gender-swapped remake of the 1988 Steve Martin/Michael Caine comedy classic Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, which also focuses on dueling con men. It’s an easy sell: Hathaway and Wilson are both strong, charismatic comedians, and the plot is rife with potential.
The Hustle, like Ocean’s 8 and Ghostbusters: Answer the Call, is yet another in a long line of gender-swapped reboots. But that trend belies a larger movement that studio films are finally catching onto. I’m talking, of course, about the female buddy comedy.
The buddy comedy has long been the domain of men, ranging from The Odd Couple to 48 Hours to Dumb and Dumber to Ride Along to most any Judd Apatow project. It’s a formula older than cinema itself: from Abbott and Costello to Laurel and Hardy to Martin and Lewis, the buddy comedy has been a time-tested and ever popular genre.
But where are all the female-led buddy comedies? The answer is, of course, the patriarchy. Studio films have historically never considered women-led movies to be big money earners, and they have vastly underestimated their female audience which is dying to see funny women onscreen. The prevailing thought among studio heads and producers was that women favored romantic comedies and dramas, centering their efforts on the romance genre.
As a result, women-led comedies have been few and far between, despite earning money at the box office. 1988’s Big Business, a two-hander starring Bette Midler and Lily Tomlin, earned $40 million at the box office double its budget. 1997’s Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion earned $30 million but went on to become a cult classic, spinning off into a TV movie and a stage musical.
But the film that really turned the tide was 2011’s Bridesmaids, which earned over $288 million worldwide on a $32.5 million budget. A female-led comedy breaking the $100 million mark was an undeniable sign that audiences wanted to see women headlining comedy films. Bridesmaids also launched the career of Melissa McCarthy, who has since become one of the decade’s most bankable comedy stars. 2013 saw her and Sandra Bullock star in The Heat, which also broke $100 million at the domestic box office, as did 2015’s Spy.
Even the female reboot of Ghostbusters, which is not considered a success, earned $229 million globally, and would have possibly earned more if not for an internet smear campaign by sad angry men.
Most recently, 2017’s Girls Trip smashed records with $140 million worldwide on a budget of only $19 million. Tiffany Haddish, the film’s breakout star, is soon on her way to becoming a comedy supernova.
I always make it a priority to get to the theaters and support women-driven films. And you should too. Because every time a female-driven comedy is successful, it puts yet another nail in the coffin that women’s movies don’t make money and don’t have an audience. And that is clearly no longer the case.
(image: Christian Black / MGM Pictures)
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