Director: Lorene Scafaria
Starring: Constance Wu, Jennifer Lopez, Julia Stiles, Keke Palmer, Lili Reinhart
Life is but a dance.
Hustlers, a movie about strippers fighting back in a capitalist world, is hilariously and amazingly based on a true story. Lorene Scafaria’s movie tells the plight of four strippers who, thanks to the male-led financial crisis that crippled the US economy a decade or so back, turned to drugging their clients in order to extort their money and receive their fair share. On paper, it sounds like a batch of evil women doing evil things, however, in reality, it’s far from it. It’s just women taking back what’s theirs from the men who stole it in the first place.
Led by a career-best turn from Jennifer Lopez (seriously, she brings a real power and magnetism to her role), Hustlers is deeper than you may have expected and less exploitative at that too. Whilst the women in question – Lopez’s Ramona, a great Constance Wu as the meek-turned-strong Destiny, Keke Palmer’s Mercedes and Lili Reinhart’s Annabelle – may have used questionable tactics in order to increase their gains, the movie asks, “Is this any worse than what has befallen them by their predatory clients?” but the story around these moments gives ample fuel for the motive and idea. Now, I’m not going to answer whether it was really justified but it sure is great to watch the creeps get their comeuppance. There’s also great messages of female bonding through adversity that never feels mawkish or overly-sentimental. That it’s written by a woman and told from the female perspective is another vital aspect of Hustlers' success – whilst Lopez’s introductory dance is seismic in its heat, the women and the workplace are treated with full respect. There’s no leering from the camera and the strip clubs feel no different than backstage anywhere else or from an office given the politics that fuel the conversations. The females here are bestowed power and levity in a way that feels very much earned and in no way forced.
If you were expecting a simple movie with women flipping around poles for the satisfaction of men, think again. Men are nearly non-existent in Hustlers and those that do appear are generally leching perverts – but this also isn’t just a movie used to bash genders, it’s more than that and Scafaria does a great job of portraying this (it’s not Magic Mike either, it’s better). There’s drama, caper, humour, and warmth to be found in the surprisingly ace Hustlers – plus a big performance from J-Lo too.
September 30th 2019