Film Review – Hustlers

Hustlers (M)

Directed by: Lorene Scafaria

Starring: Constance Wu, Jennifer Lopez

Four and a half stars

Review by: Julian Wright

Strap on those Stilettos for a wild ride of girl power and rags to riches and back again for a gaggle of determined, tough nut strippers who get revenge on their Wall Street clients who leave them high and dry after the financial crisis.

In 2007, struggling stripper Dorothy (Constance Wu) commutes into New York City every night for long hours of grinding on drunk, sleazy clients for minimal cash (her boss takes a considerable cut of her tips) just to get by and financially assist her grandmother (Wai Ching Ho).

Dorothy is taken under the wing of experienced stripper and new bestie Ramona (Jennifer Lopez), who teaches her tricks of the trade, impressive pole dancing moves and helps her build her client base of wealthy Wall Street men to increase her cash flow.

While riding a wave of financial stability and newfound sisterhood, the Wall Street crisis of 2008 hits, sending everyone into a state of financial woe.

Bitter about the Wall Street clients that helped cause the crash – the same ones that would spend up big in the strip club but are now sparse – Ramona hatches a plan with Dorothy to get them back and at the same time a sizable share of their money.

Hustlers

Inspired by a New York Magazine article, Hustlers is a sterling example of the importance of female storytellers. Writer/director Lorene Scafaria establishes the sleazy club environment without exploiting the bodies of her female cast, creates characters who are not catty, jealous or competitive, and is non-judgmental when their morality becomes questionable.

What an absolute fist pumping joy to watch a story about women who lift each other up with unconditional support without a hidden agenda, but still maintain drama, conflict and an edginess. This is by no means a Disney story.

Any other (male created) version of this story would have had an older insecure stripper threatened by the young newcomer. But not this version; J.Lo’s mumma bear literally takes the newcomer under her big warm furry coat, no questions asked.

As the matriarch of the stripper family, Lopez commands the screen with such impressive and undeniable swagger (years of music videos must have been a great training ground for this demeanor), both when swimming in expensive and elaborate furs but also when in her skimpy but tasteful work costumes.

Her confidence and strut is something to marvel.

It is a display of unwavering confidence and conviction that we have not seen her convey in such a long time (dare I say since Out of Sight way back in 1998?) and rivals that of Sharon Stone’s commanding performance in Basic Instinct (albeit with much more clothes).

Wu’s more innocent, Bambi-like Dorothy is a stark contrast to Lopez’s Ramona, but her performance is equally praise worthy as she tackles a role with more layers, vulnerability and arc and pulls it off beautifully.

To top it all off, this film is just gorgeous to look at; the costumes and colours pop and the dance sequences, while only a handful, are thrillingly choreographed (when J. Lo claps her heels on the stage floor during her routine – WOW!).

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