Constance Wu and Jennifer Lopez wrap up on a New York rooftopstx films

Hustlers proves itself to be a hard-hitting yet seductively fun crime-thriller, reminiscent of some of the best works of Scorsese and Soderbergh in its slickness and smart dialogue. The film⁠ – based upon a real article by Jessica Pressler about a group of New York strippers who form a bond and decide to con Wall Street businessmen in order to make a living after the 2008 crash⁠ – surpasses all expectations and assumptions.

The entire cast shines. Constance Wu is the narrative anchor for the film; she gives an emotionally raw and vulnerable performance as Destiny, a woman who goes into stripping to take care of her grandmother,  eventually gaining confidence through the friendships she makes with the other women in the club. Keke Palmer and Lili Reinhart are more comic presences, but their characters are not denied the depth that many secondary female characters are.

Lorene Scafaria, the screenwriter and director, makes sure every member of this group feel like real women rather than just characters, giving the film a heart and an authenticity that makes the audience really invest in the narrative. Cardi B and Lizzo (along with her signature flute) have brilliant but unfortunately short appearances, making the most of the minimal screen time they have. However, the undeniable stand out amongst them all is Jennifer Lopez as the ringleader of this group, Ramona.

Jennifer Lopez leads an ensemble cast at its bestalison cohen rosa/stx films

J. Lo commands the screen from her unforgettable entrance in the film to its conclusion. We first meet Ramona as she performs a mesmerising and stunningly athletic strip routine to Fiona Apple’s Criminal: she shines as bright as the diamante she is decked in from head to toe. This role allows Lopez to flaunt the confidence and authority that she has gained from nearly 30 years in the spotlight. Ramona is a leader, a performer and a matriarch, and Lopez embodies each of these aspects of Ramona’s personality perfectly, with a nuance that only comes from experience. This is her best performance since Selena, most likely her best ever: believe the hype, Lopez genuinely deserves every bit of Oscar buzz that she can get.

Pole dancing too is an art form that involves great discipline and talent

Much credit must also be given to writer-director Lorene Scafaria for the respect she treats each of these women with: despite the subject matter, they are not once degraded through either one-dimensional writing or demeaning camera angles. In fact, Scafaria instead actively empowers these characters. Classical piano plays over a scene in which Ramona teaches Destiny how to properly pole dance, showing her some of her best moves: this scene is shot as if it is a ballet, reinforcing the point that pole dancing too is an art form that involves great discipline and talent.


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Although these women are interacting with some of the most powerful men in America at the time, Scafaria subverts the assumed power dynamic by showing that these strippers can in fact be the ones who hold the power over these filthy rich Wall Street moguls. We also fully understand the reasons why each of these women are in this business, but Scafaria shows us that this is not the only thing that defines them: this is a film with female friendship and family at its core and the connections we see between these women are heartfelt and feel genuine.

Hustlers has proved a financial and critical success, making back its budget in its US domestic opening weekend gross alone and garnering much attention with awards season around the corner. This is a film made by women, about women, which appreciates and values women. In 2019, it’s refreshing to see a film like this be rewarded in such a manner. I hope it inspires many more like it.

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