Director: Lorene Scafaria
Cast: Constance Wu, Jennifer Lopez, Julia Stiles, Keke Palmer, Lili Reinhart, Lizzo, Cardi B
Screenplay: Lorene Scafaria
110 mins. Rated R for pervasive sexual material, drug content, language and nudity.
I recall the surprise that surrounded Hustlers when it turned from a movie that no one really had much faith in to a critic-beloved darling of a film. It was so shocking to find that it wasn’t garbage, and I was suddenly interested in seeing it after thinking it looked it absolute garbage. I did get a chance to actually see the movie, and I was surprised, but how?
The year is 2007, and stripper Destiny (Constance Wu, Crazy Rich Asians, TV’s Fresh Off the Boat) is working to make money and support her grandmother when she meets Ramona (Jennifer Lopez, Gigli, Second Act), an experienced stripper who seemingly captivates everyone in the audience. The two women form a close friendship and things go well for awhile, until the financial crisis forces them to reevaluate their plans. Destiny is invited to join Ramona and two other women as they hunt down rich men, seduce and drug them, and take their money. This plan is quite successful, but like all stories of crime, this one is headed for an unfortunate ending.
Let me start out by saying that, overall, I think it’s a good movie. I’m not praising it as an Oscar-worthy film by any means, but it’s good. I think director Lorene Scafaria (Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, This is Heaven) does the real standout work here. Her film has a style that is quite engaging, taking a story that I feel is a little simple and turning it into something more fascinating. Her screenplay showcases a group of women that become selfish Robin Hoods, robbing the rich and keeping it for themselves until they become the very people who they target. It’s a fascinating story, even if it falls into cliche as it goes on.
The cast, particularly Wu and Lopez, do quite well in showing the radicals of women in their situation, desperation to greed to desperation again. Wu and Lopez have solid chemistry together and they’re both engaging onscreen. The less said about Lizzo (UglyDolls) and Cardi B’s performance, the better though.
Stripping is a talent and skill, and in order for the film to work, the stripping scenes had to be authentic, and it appears that the cast was trained well in translating this skill to the screen with precision. Lopez took this very seriously, even installing a pole at home and visiting strip clubs with her husband to research.
Hustlers is a fun little crime thriller with some front-and-center solid work from Constance Wu and Jennifer Lopez and solid direction from Lorene Scafaria. The script is a little lackluster but overall, this is a fun experience that surprised me by being good at all, and I’m fine with good.
-Kyle A. Goethe