Movie Review of Hustlers
The occasionally entertaining, fact-inspired Hustlers looks at the financial collapse of 2008 and its impact on a select group of individuals who suffered when the Wall Street gravy train left the station: the high-price, major-league strippers who were now left to grope with under-employment and unemployment. Constance Wu is Dorothy (stage name Destiny), a journeyman stripper (she’s got the looks but lacks the moves) working hard to erase her grandmother’s debts. Enter Jennifer Lopez as Ramona (and enter she does, with a very impressive pole dance), who becomes Dorothy/Destiny’s mentor. Ramona teaches Dorothy (and by extension, us) the wacky, not-so-wonderful world of strip clubs, corrupt club managers, and high-finance, corporate credit card clients. And all is well until the eventual collapse—but then Ramona has an idea that will simultaneously allow the strippers to maintain their lifestyle, while “giving it to the man.” This involves drugging the clients, depleting their accounts, and trusting they won’t call the police.
As written and directed by Lorene Scafaria and based on a New York magazine article, Hustlers does score points with its immersive, occasionally exhilarating look at a seductive and seedy underworld of a kind—somewhat reminiscent of Scorsese’s Good Fellas in that regard. Also reminiscent is the way the whirlwind, alluring buildup leads to s frenzied series of disappointments, calamities and betrayals. The conventional flashback structure (Wu’s Dorothy relates the tale to Julia Stiles’ patiently inquisitive journalist) works in that we see the effects of Dorothy’s past choices on her current perspective. While Constance Wu is fairly good as the movie’s conscience, Jennifer Lopez gives perhaps her best performance yet as the dynamic, pragmatic and fatally overreaching ringleader with a soft spot for mothers and motherhood. However, in the end, Hustlers goes for the heart, soft-pedaling the ladies’ actions while placing the focus on empowerment, family and friendship. In the end, it comes off a little unbalanced—but it still provides some food for thought.