Jennifer Lopez has had a career resurgence lately thanks to STX films. She has appeared in a string of their films over the last few years, all of which have been hits. Now comes Hustlers, based off a true story boasting a stellar cast, a pumping soundtrack and dark brooding visuals. While the story does go on for a bit too long and takes a while to get moving, the overall film is a ton of fun and the kind of movie that’s PERFECT for a girls night out with your friends.
The movie centers around Destiny (Constance Wu) a stripper who is trying to earn enough money to take care of her grandmother and get through life. When she starts at a new club, she is introduced to Ramona (Jennifer Lopez) a confident performer who rakes in the cash every night. The two team up and create a team that make a lot of money every night dancing together and attracting wealthy Wall Street fat cats. Then the Global Financial Crisis hits and it all goes away. The wealthy men lose their jobs and only a handful left are still coming to the club.
The girls get a little creative and Ramona leads them in a scheme to lure the men into a bar, drug them and then max out their credit card. As their client list dwindles and their team grows bigger to scrap the bottom of the barrel, things quickly get out of hand and Ramona and Destiny must face a harsh truth about the new world.
A strong sell is the soundtrack in this movie. Seeing Jennifer Lopez pole dance to Fiona Apple’s “Criminal” nearly turned me straight! This is echoed with Britney Spears‘ “Gimme More”, and “Love In This Club” with a surprise appearance from Usher. Every song is a feature in the film and compliments each scene perfectly.
Story wise, the narrative is told as a flashback with Destiny talking to a journalist Elizabeth (Julia Stiles) and is a reflectively dives deep into the friendship between Ramona and Destiny, and how much the world changed so quickly around them. While this was a great way to tell this story, it took way too long to get to the GFC and scam part, and then it just glossed over it seemingly quickly compared to the first half of the film. Some snappier editing could have easily fixed this, as well as having some of the longer scenes cut in half. That being said, director Lorene Scafaria knows her way around this world, zipping and lingering around each pole dancing musical moment and showcasing the mens desires and the girls’ plan to outwit them.
This is a career highlight for Lopez. Dusting off the cutesy roles she has played in recent years, she delivers an edge and dramatic flair that she has rarely shown on-screen before. Ramona is tough with balls of steel , shown with Lopez’s icy glare. By comparison Destiny is idealistic, vulnerable, and there are times when she seems an easy target for Ramona and others, when really she is just as equally a bad-ass bitch. If you are heading to see this for Cardi B and Lizzo, you will be disappointed as after their 30 second stint at the start of the film, they are nowhere to be found.
If you are looking for true girl power, then this is the movie for you. The men are nameless and disposable, and while it may seem like a sleazy film about strippers, the clear message here is the women have all the power, and it’s up to them if they choose to share it. It could have easily gone the other way if Hustlers was directed with a male gaze, however writer and director Lorene Scafaria guides the film perfectly, delivering an empowering tale of desperation and deception.