All that glitters is gold in Hustlers.
You won’t find a greater paradox at the theater in 2019: a movie where strippers are shown as human, breaking the rules seems right and finally, a movie with Jennifer Lopez that isn’t wasting her talents. Hustlers is all that and more.
Not only will you get an educational lesson on moves like “The Peter Pan” and “The Fireman,” but you’ll also be taught a lesson in selflessness, girl power and the power of friendship. That’s where Destiny comes in – both fate and the stripper of the same name. She’s a loner. More than that, she’s a loner with no friends, no steady job and a grandma who needs caring for. So, I guess stripping is the answer?
Okay, so these characters don’t always make the best decisions, but money is money. And before the stock market crash in 2008, cash would rain in like a hurricane making headway. Especially when Ramona (Lopez) takes center stage. After her first day, Destiny (Constance Wu) wipes the bangs out of her eyes to see Ramona toss off her Rhinestone suit and defy gravity, as a storm of money showers her in slow motion. She watches with a tinge of jealousy and a blush of awe.
You will, too. It’s impossible for your jaw not to drop when Lopez dances. First, she makes spinning around the pole look as easy as spinning a top. Then, she balances herself on the pole as if to say “look mom, no hands!” What kind of cheat code is she using? Cardi B was Lopez’s cheat code, as it turns out. As she gave her pole dancing lessons prior to shooting.
The exotic dancing is cool and all, but it’s what takes place off stage that makes this special; just as it’s what took place off screen that made this film possible. Based on the viral 2015 New York Magazine article by Jessica Parker, this is about a group of strippers who took matters into their own hands when the market crashed. The best investment is in yourself. That’s Destiny and Ramona’s mindset as they become C.E.Os (Controlling Executives’ Ogling, as I like to call it).
They eventually join forces with “the others,” played by Cardi B, Lili Reinhardt, Keke Palmer and Lizzo. All of these ladies have had troubled pasts and are trying to make the best of the present. They certainly look like they’re having fun, as when they aren’t drugging Wall Street crooks for money at night, they’re going on shopping sprees during the day. Sometimes you can find them dancing around their new condos like sorority girls on bid day. Other times they can be found watching each others’ kids, or running each others’ errands. It’s the family they never had. And it’s that sense of family that binds this picture together.
Writer/director Lorene Scafaria orchestrates genuine friendships here. You’ve most likely heard someone say “she’s the mom of the group” before, and that’s what Ramona is to this group. “Come into my fur” she tells Destiny. Cuddling her in a literal fur coat, the two mesh in ways that could only be described as Bergman-esque. By fleshing out her characters, it’s easy to see why someone like Destiny would be drawn to someone like Ramona and vice versa. Scafaria’s script gives her characters time to breathe. It gives them time to open up as the story opens up, making it easy to root for these two. To hangout with these two. And for some of you out there, to develop a crush on these two.
This might sound like it’s all just fun and games, but it’s not. Just like in Goodfellas, this gang’s never meant to be seen as heroic. The film walks a fine line between justifying the characters’ motives and pointing the finger at their actions. Destiny begins to realize that these men have families while Ramona couldn’t care less. How that difference plays out is both heartbreaking and a bit heartwarming.
This is first and foremost entertainment, though. Hustlers is intoxicating, surreal and a party you never want to end. It also helps when you have great actresses. Everyone here dances off screen and into our hearts. That goes for Lopez in particular. The 50 year old – yes, 50 year old – actress has never been better. Here, she has Audrey Hepburn’s tossed off confidence and Angelina Jolie’s sexy smile. Look out Oscars, Lopez is throwing it back in more ways than one.
All that glitters IS gold in Hustlers. A dramedy about strippers that strips back its characters layer by fragile layer, you'll be surprised just how moving - and how good - this actually is.