(based on the New York Times article by Jessica Pressler, written and directed by Lorene Scafaria)
Alright, everyone, we are now into the Oscar-bait season of films coming into our theatres. Hustlers, based on the viral article on a true crime story, could very easily (and I have been guilty of this) be branded as the ‘fem-Wolf of Wall Street‘ – which is ironic considering these women are frankly punishing the people Wall Street depict. There is currently a significant buzz around Jennifer Lopez as Ramona, a confident and business-savvy stripper, and the possibility of Lopez winning an Oscar. As well as Constance Wu as Destiny, our initially doe-eyed protagonist forced into the stripping industry to support her grandmother, turned into our ferocious moral-compass of the picture.
This buzz is more than justified. Folks, this film is brilliant.
The film is structured around Destiny (Wu) being interviewed by journalist Elizabeth (Julia Stiles), recounting the story of how Destiny and Ramona (Lopez) founded a criminal scheme to drug their male victims and max out their credit cards after the 2008 crash left their strip club run out of clients. Not a minute is wasted. Every scene feels significant whether it’s displaying Ramona and Destiny’s friendship or the development of the group’s downfall. It really felt like I was with Destiny, going on this journey and that I was part of this tight-knit sisterhood celebrating Christmas together.
The cinematography (Todd Banhazl) was a particular highlight, like the continuous one-shot taking us through Destiny’s first shift at the strip club or the pan from different victims coming in and out of their cars. Every shot felt purposeful. The use of nudity felt necessary and not glorified, which was oddly refreshing to see. The soundtrack (compiled by Scafaria) had meaning and added to the story. I thoroughly appreciated that she did not use any songs from the likes of Lopez, Cardi B, and Lizzo, and lets the audience connect to the characters a lot easier than if we were constantly reminded that these actors do other things as well as acting.
Of course, props to Lorene Scafaria for her touching yet gritty vision for this film, and to Constance Wu, Jennifer Lopez, Keke Palmer, and Lili Reinhart for their chemistry and spectacular performances. Lopez and Wu’s dynamic was the stand out aspect of this film. It felt genuine and you could feel their pain and struggle. And yes, Cardi B and Lizzo were surprisingly great. Cardi B is in the first 5 minutes, during the montage of the peak financial success of the club, when clients were splashing out and the strippers had a familial bond. Her presence added a great sense of fun to that particular chapter in the film. If anything, there was a different cameo that I felt was unnecessary, and personally was just trying to relive the peak time of when they were popular. I will not say who, because spoilers, but when you see this just don’t read too much into it in terms of storytelling.
Whilst I admit the sound design had some interesting moments, it was a bit inconsistent with the idea of having scenes sound like a recording. I do wish they could have played with that concept more. However, I had a fantastic time watching Hustlers, and I highly recommend this film. Please support this amazing picture that is wonderfully diverse, as well as female-led.
Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ 1/2
After this, and seeing the trailers beforehand, I am thoroughly excited at this season of films, and this was a brilliantly punchy and fun way to start it. Hopefully, another review shall be with you soon!