Based on a true story, Hustlers follows a crew of savvy former strip club employees, led by Jenifer Lopez’s Ramona, who band together to con their Wall Street clients out of a lot of money.
First of all, Hustlers is fantastic. It’s bold and beautiful, funny and enticing. The story of the hustle these women pull is so outrageous, and how it goes from morally wrong to full out illegal and dangerous is fascinating to watch. The film follows Constance Wu’s Destiny and Wu, like all her co-stars, does a great job but it is Lopez that steals every scene she’s in. She oozes power and control as Ramona and all the other women, including Destiny, get dragged into her orbit.
The first half is more the set up for the hustle, introducing you to the characters, their lives and their struggles, while the second half is the hustle itself and how things spiral out of control. Even as events get out of Destiny’s control, the film is never out of director Lorene Scafaria’s control. She’s penned a snappy and funny script, while still making sure the emotional beats are given the time they deserve. The music choices for the soundtrack and where those songs are placed is superb, but equally the decision to have complete silence at key moments makes scenes even more affecting.
The way the women are shot in this film is just amazing. They all look so strong and powerful and the amount of times they are filmed, walking in slow-motion as they saunter to their next “victim” makes a great running gag but equally, you are in awe of them every time. Honestly, I don’t think I’ve seen the female gaze at work in a film to this extent before. The sequences in the strip club with all these scantily clad women never feels gratuitous and there’s no lingering shots on women’s breasts or bums. It’s wonderful to see all these fabulous, confident, sexual women on stage together or just dancing together in their living room and there’s so many moments you feel good just watching them have the time of their lives. Yeah, they are doing a bad thing, but when they are having so much fun doing it, it’s hard not to have fun yourself.
Ramona and Destiny, along with Mercedes and Annabelle (Keke Palmer & Lili Reinhart) make their own family. They are best friends and co-workers and together they find a family and somewhere to belong that none of them have really had before. The scenes where they are having fun together are just as important as the scenes where they are supporting each other.
Naturally being based on a true story, you don’t know how much of the film is real and how much is made up, but what Hustlers does well is it allows the viewer to make their own judgement on the women. Did they do it out of some desire for revenge? On men in general or on the men who they perceived to have caused the financial crisis? Or are their actions driven by greed? Or were they all just looking for a way to survive?
Hustlers is a funny and vibrant film with electric performances. Jennifer Lopez is the standout but the whole cast is fantastic, and the direction and script are on point. It’s so refreshing to watch a film where not only women are the focus, but that there are so few men in the film that they have less screen time than Lizzo and Cardi B who make brief yet wonderful cameos.
My Rating: ★★★★★
Directed by: Lorene Scafaria
Written by: Jessica Pressler, Lorene Scafaria
Cast: Constance Wu, Jennifer Lopez, Julia Stiles, Keke Palmer, Lili Reinhart