Hustlers (Lorene Scafaria, 2019) 4/5
Yes, this is the film about strippers. But it is so much more than that. Lorene Scafaria’s film is adapted from a 2015 New York Magazine’s article entitled ‘The Hustlers at Scores: The Ex-Strippers Who Stole From (Mostly) Rich Men and Gave to, Well, Themselves” by Jessica Pressler. Catchy, no?
For those of you that think this sounds like a soulless, mindlessly provocative title, then you would be right, this film however is anything but. We follow Destiny (Constance Wu), a stripper trying to make ends meet while supporting her grandmother. She is barely getting by from the tips from the drunken businessman. Until, that is she meets fellow stripper Ramona (Jennifer Lopez), who takes an instant shine to her. The duo become famous in the club and this is mirrored in the surge of attention and most of all Benjamin’s.
Of course, once the financial crisis of 2007 hits, and the money slowly goes and both women must use their wiles to attract men, and well, drug and steal from them. As we follow both women down this seductive rabbit hole, what is apparent is that both Lopez and Wu are a dream to watch. The chemistry works on the level of a pair of mafia brothers, but also a couple in a relationship. Both actresses commit fully to their roles and Scafaria creates a star power role for Lopez. The reason that she is NOT nominated for an Academy Award this year for Best Supporting Actress is criminal (pun intended).
There are moments of genuine emotion throughout as both women must support families and protect those around them. However, as the tale increases, we become embroiled in their struggle for equality and to stick it to the misogynists. Alas, you cannot con only those that you despise, and this proves to be their downfall.
Hustlers is one of those films that creeps up out of nowhere, and it is one that you could dismiss as fluff. However, the supporting case of Cardi B, Lizzo, Julia Stiles and Keke Palmer make you take notice. Scafaria’s film is one of those rare treats, blending comedy, crime and human drama. Indeed, produced by Adam McKay (The Big Short) along with a cohort of others has ensured that this is a clever tale of sexual politics and economics.
In sum, Hustlers is a triumph and will entertain those that might perform on the pole and those that don’t. It is a underdog story, a story about equality and a story with stunning performances. Go see this, to prove the academy wrong.