Accomplished actresses deserve better movies

I'm going to pass over Pokemon - Detective Pikachu this week (I was too old for the whole Pokemon phenomenon, which I am reliably informed is still a Thing).

 Rebel Wilson, left, as Penny Rust, and Anne Hathaway as Josephine Chesterfield in 'The Hustle'. Picture: Christian Black/Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures

Rebel Wilson, left, as Penny Rust, and Anne Hathaway as Josephine Chesterfield in 'The Hustle'. Picture: Christian Black/Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures

Instead, I will focus on two female-centric films - one an "old-girl power" comedy, the other a gender-bending retread of a story told twice before - neither of which is particularly impressive.

Poms is a chance for some older actresses - who deserve better - to embarrass themselves in a very slight and fairly predictable story whose occasional charms don't compensate for its lack of substance and conviction.

Martha (Diane Keaton), a retired teacher with cancer and no family, moves into a lavishly resourced retirement village (why she would do this when she doesn't seem to like anything about it is left unanswered).

She starts off keeping to herself, but slowly warms to her talkative, busybody neighbour Sheryl (Aussie Jackie Weaver, with her usual American accent) who encourages her to form a cheerleading squad (she'd always wanted to be a cheerleader but never got the chance). After auditions, they come up against the snooty Southern belles of the village, but they and the other cheerleaders - who include Rhea Perlman, about the only other one to get much of a character - persevere, blackmailing a student cheerleader into being their choreographer.

The film is short, at about 90 minutes, and feels undercooked - as though scenes that fleshed out some of the characters and story strands were omitted in the interests of being able to squeeze in more sessions a day.

The Hustle - another "female remake" like Ghostbusters - is a bit of a laboriously assembled creation. It credits four screenwriters: two wrote the 1964 comedy Bedtime Story with David Niven and Marlon Brando, which was remade as the 1988 movie Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (adding a third screenwriter) with Steve Martin and Michael Caine - and now it's been feminised and a fourth name has joined the list of scribes.

In all its incarnations, the basic plot remains the same: a suave, successful con artist's European turf is invaded by a lower-class grifter who blackmails the more successful one in order to learn how to fleece the well-heeled. Then they make a bet: the first to swindle a specified sum out of a chosen mark will stay, the other will leave.

The first version benefited from Niven's suaveness, though it was hampered by a game but miscast Brando. The Martin/Caine rejig was one remake that surpassed the original - but this new one doesn't sparkle.

Anne Hathaway, as the posh predator, tries out a range of accents with varying degrees of success, and Rebel Wilson (whose Hollywood success depends on Melissa McCarthyeque typecasting) does her usual brash bogan routine as the hustler.

There seems no reason in principle why swapping the sexes shouldn't work, but The Hustle, while occasionally amusing - especially in the first half when we get to see some clever cons - doesn't really satisfy. It could be a lack of chemistry between the leads or that the premise is dated (and a little of Wilson goes a long way).

Here's a thought: rather than dust off an old property or make sappy, predictable fare, why not create new movies with good parts for female performers? It just might work.