Written & Directed By: Lorene Scafaria
Runtime: 1 hour 50 minutes
Inspired by a Jessica Pressler article from late 2015, Hustlers is the real-life story of a group of women who became sexy 21st century Robin Hoods, stealing from wealthy men and enriching – well, themselves, mostly. But so did Robin Hood. That whole “give to the poor” schtick was a pretty late add to the Robin Hood mythos. Hustlers might be based on a true story, but it is enough of a fictionalization that the characters names have been changed and, last I heard, the woman who inspired the Ramona character is planning to sue Jennifer Lopez for misrepresenting her.
All that said, even as a completely fabricated story, Hustlers stands as a fun buddy comedy with just enough drama and hardship thrown in to keep the stakes high. The screenplay (written by director Lorene Scafaria, most well-known for the 2015 indie flick The Meddler) is sexy, dark, witty, and warm. There are several fun cameos: Cardi B was my favorite, but Lizzo made a brief appearance and Usher has a scene that is guaranteed to put a giant, goofy grin on every 90s kid’s face.
Scafaria places the viewers in time with a very intentionally crafted soundtrack. Britney Spears, Sean Kingston, Lorde, Usher, and Fiona Apple exist alongside their fashion counterparts of bebe, Louboutin, Juicy, Coach, and more. The audience can always be confident of what year it is because Scafaria is so good at giving her viewers auditory and visual cues.
Unsurprisingly, Jennifer Lopez and Constance Wu (Crazy Rich Asians, Fresh off the Boat) both give incredible performances. Jennifer Lopez shines as Ramona, the mastermind and glue of the operation. Her character is a tough-talking, warm hearted woman who takes no shit and is always there to build up the women in her life. Lopez gives an understated, emotional performances that is as warm as it is cold and she proves that even at fifty years old she is hotter than 90% of us can ever hope to be. Her abs alone deserve an award for their contribution to the film.
Destiny, played by Constance Wu, is the narrator and, towards the end of the story, an increasingly important decision maker in the scam that the two women run together. Wu does a great job showing Destiny’s development as a person. She goes from shy to sexy, uncertain to boss bitch, young hustler to young mother. Wu’s creates a vibrant, complex character whose internal battles play right across her face. The movie is truly worth watching for this performance alone.
I initially described this movie as a buddy comedy, but that description deserves the giant caveat that Hustlers is a genre busting film. Hustlers is partially a true story and there are aspects to that true story that are dark. Destiny is sexually assaulted at one point, which, after reading some articles about the actual events, seems like it was a more common experience at her club than was reflected in the film. Hustlers features all kinds of abusers and users: sometimes they are the women who ran the scam, but more often it is the men they are taking advantage of. Buddy comedy or no, this film shows off the glamor, the monotony, and the underbelly of strip clubs.
Hustlers is full of funny moments and outright jokes that kept me and my movie buddy laughing for most of the film. Despite its thematic darkness and the fact that neither of us has any desire to commit felonies or take up exotic dancing, we both laughed and cried our way through the movie and, at the end, were both aspiring to create a friendship like Destiny’s and Ramona’s.
Hustlers is a sexy movie with a wicked sense of humor, a lot of heart, and a weirdly uplifting message of women helping women. It’s a beautiful portrait of the highs and lows of friendship set against a backdrop of crime that is pretty palatable considering that most of their victims were insanely rich. Check it out while it’s still in theaters. Do it for the abs. Your TV won’t do Jennifer Lopez justice.
Have you seen ‘HUSTLERS’? Well, what did you think?