In Netflix’s Hustle, Adam Sandler plays Stanley Sugerman, an NBA scout improbably married to Queen Latifah. When the owner of the 76ers (Robert Duvall) promotes him to assistant coach, it seems like Stanley’s dreams have come true. Almost immediately, however, the owner dies and his son, Vince (Ben Foster), takes over the team. Obviously not because of the pair’s tense relationship, Vince sends Stanley back out on the road. Stanley stumbles on an incredible player, Bo Cruz (Juancho Hernangomez), while on a scouting trip to Spain. Believing that he has found a legend in the making, Stanley stakes his career and his finances on bringing Bo to the NBA.
Throughout his career, Adam Sandler has shown that he can do both stupid slapstick and moving dramatic performances. Sometimes it is hard to believe that the actor I laughed at in Billy Madison is now considered a serious actor (sometimes), but Hustle highlights the best aspects of Sandler as a performer, aside from one scene with excessive yelling. Stanley gets plenty of time to trash talk basketball players as well as serious scenes about lost dreams and personal struggles. That Sandler choses to play the character with just a tinge of sadness, rather than bitterness or resentment makes his performance moving and understated. Yes, Adam Sandler understated. It’s bound to be one of the best movies of his career.
Opposite Sandler, Juancho Hernangomez is a revelation. The role was physically demanding, no doubt, but he also meets Sandler’s humor and sadness in such a way that the developing relationship between the men feels authentic and earned. Their chemistry is a joy to watch. Queen Latifah brings fun levity to the ensemble, but her casting distracted from the story at first. It might have been better to put someone less recognizable in the role. To round out the cast, seemingly any NBA star who wanted to come out and play makes an appearance.
Sports movies are known for their drama, messages about work ethic, and soaring endings. Hustle hits all the high notes you would expect, with little real innovation or commentary. It is not the most creative story, but it executes the genre very well and sometimes that is all you want in a movie. I respected that the writers pull back a smidge from a perfect ending, avoiding too neat a bow on top.
To capture all the action on the basketball court, the cinematographers make ample use of extreme close-ups and lens flares. Perhaps I need new glasses, but sometimes the close-up action shots made me feel a little dizzy. This quibble aside, the photography is rich and has the saturated, beautiful look of a Nike commercial.
In all, Hustle is artfully made, well-written, and features outstanding performances. It is sure to be a new sports classic.
Hustle was written by Will Fetters and Taylor Materne and directed by Jeremiah Zagar. It runs 1 hour 57 minutes and is rated R for language.
On HBO Max, The Baby is a horror-comedy that draws inspiration from classics such as The Omen and puts a humorous, ridiculous spin on the subgenre of horror about motherhood. On the show, Natasha (Michelle de Swarte) is struggling to accept the changes in her life brought about by her closest friends, Mags (Shvorne Marks) and Rita (Isy Suttie), having babies. Reluctant to mature, the last thing she needs is for a baby to fall off a cliff and into her arms. When The Baby (Albie and Arthur Hills) suspiciously appears in her life, everyone in Natasha’s life is certain that he is her son, and she is losing it. Then, even worse things start to happen. With the help of the mysterious Mrs. Eaves (Amira Ghazalla), Natasha struggles to get rid of a baby of her own.
The Baby starts with a great, crass, odd setup, but as the series progresses, the storytelling falls apart a bit, resulting in uneven episodes and a meandering pace. I wanted more from the writing, but the comedy and the mystery were enough to keep me watching. Furthermore, Michelle de Swarte’s performance is winningly snarky and frustrated. Watching her deal with such a bizarre situation covers some of the writing flaws.
The Baby was created by Lucy Gaymer and Sian Robins-Grace. It runs for 8 half-hour episodes, 7 of which aired as of this writing, and is rated TV-MA. In case it matters to you, a dog meets a grisly end. It was upsetting to watch.
- Rekindling Relationships ~ At The Movies With Kasey - November 24, 2023
- Educational Dramas & Spooky Thrills ~ At The Movies With Kasey - November 10, 2023
- Giving Poe A Modern Twist ~ At The Movies With Kasey - October 27, 2023