Saturday, September 21, 2019

Movie Review: "Hustlers" (2019)

Movie poster for STX Entertainment's 2019 film "Hustlers," starring Jennifer Lopez, Constance Wu, Keke Palmer, Cardi B, Lizzo, Lili Reinhart, and Julia Stiles
Image Source
Director: Lorene Scafaria
Year: 2019
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 49 minutes

After hitting financially hard times after the economic crash of 2007-2008, a group of strippers decides to start a hustle stealing from Wall Street brokers by using their feminine wiles combined and a little ketamine and MDMA to make money.

Constance Wu and Jennifer Lopez wrap their arms around Frank Whaley as they walk into a strip club in a movie still for the 2019 film Hustlers
"Not one of these people went to jail. Is that fair?" (Image Source)
Lots of movies make amazing musical choices to help aid in telling a story, but has a film ever had the pitch-perfect song selections that "Hustlers" does? Not in recent memory! "Hustlers" is written and directed by Lorene Scafaria, who is known for writing and directing movies like "The Meddler" and "Seeking a Friend for the End of the World." It is based on the true story called "The Hustlers at Scores" by Jessica Pressler, which was first featured in New York Magazine. This story focuses on an erotic dancer who goes by the name of Destiny (Constance Wu), who is relaying her story to a reporter named Elizabeth (Julia Stiles). Destiny tells Elizabeth how she started out as an honest, hard-working stripper and eventually met her friend Ramona (Jennifer Lopez), who taught her the ins and outs of how to make money in the club. She explains how the financial crisis of 2008 sent shockwaves throughout the country and impacted their industry a great deal. Shortly after the crash, Ramona recruited Destiny and a group of former strippers (Keke Palmer, Lili Reinhart) to start a hustle that involved drugging wealthy Wall Street brokers so they could steal large sums of money from them with little risk of being caught so long as they stuck to their rules and didn't get too greedy.
Hustlers 2019 movie still featuring Jennifer Lopez dancing on stage in neon lighting surrounded by tons of money
"Drain the clock, not the cock." (Image Source)
The main goal of any stripper is to separate the customers from their money. Usually, this is done via an agreement between two consenting adults, and their transactions are completely legal. "Hustlers" focuses on one group of women who took their money-grabbing hustle beyond the realm of legalities by slipping their customers/dates drugs to make them easier to manipulate. When we hear stories about this sort of scheme, it usually involves men doing it to women, not the other way around. Since this is a true story, the trick for director Lorene Scafaria and actors Constance Wu and Jennifer Lopez is to get the audience to understand their actions without justifying them or exonerating them, which is the case for any movie where the protagonists happen to be criminals. In that respect, "Hustlers" succeeds. It does a damn good job making these characters relatable, charming, and likable while still allowing us to understand that what they did was wrong. Jennifer Lopez and Constance Wu absolutely kill it with their performances. We believe them as two frustrated friends trying to earn an honest living who get caught up in the idea of having it all just for once in their lives.

The story also has an intriguing angle that explores how the bad policies that led to the 2008 financial/housing crash affected everyone, in some way, across all industries, even stripping. Ramona and her crew used the talents they learned working in the strip club to up the ante and took it one step further to make a profit for themselves after their livelihoods were threatened by the shady dealings of Wall Street schmucks. Was what they did illegal and unscrupulous? Yes, absolutely, but so were the actions of every protagonist in every Martin Scorsese movie ever made. These women justified their misdeeds and took their power back by exploiting the American cycle of greed and capitalism and lust, putting it on blast for their own benefit. The men that "sank America" during the financial crisis were the same men who came into their club over and over and over after being drugged by them the first time. It explores how the men who were scammed were reluctant to come forward after being victimized by these women, how societal double standards led them to keep quiet about what really happened, which is part of the reason why Ramona, Destiny, and their crew were able to operate as long as they did. To admit they were victimized meant owning up to the lies they told their wives and admitting they were taken advantage of by strippers. Finally, it shows how stripping is still looked down upon because some see it as an indecent profession, but the women in this movie either lacked the experience to do much else, were not given opportunities to branch out, or were stuck in bad marriages/relationships/family dynamics and needed a way out. They made each other their friends as well as their family, and at its core, "Hustlers" is about the sisterhood and friendship that tested their bonds in more ways than one.
Movie still for Hustlers where Lili Reinhart, J. Lo, Keke Palmer, and Constance Wu drink champagne and laugh in a fancy New York Upper East Side apartment
"This game is rigged, and it does not reward people who play by the rules." (Image Source)
We didn't expect much from "Hustlers" because the trailer didn't pull us in. We're willing to admit when we are wrong. This movie is an excellent, fun, well-made, well-acted good time.

My Rating: 8/10
BigJ's Rating: 7.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 6.6/10
RT Rating: 88%
Do we recommend this movie: Yes!

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