Released mid-September, Hustlers came at the right time for a leftover trace of summer fun, mixed with an autumnal hint of something darker.
Hustlers recounts the true story of a group of strippers who ventured outside the normal, and legal, to expand a business empire that made them rich. Based on the 2015 New York Magazine article by Jessica Pressler (‘The Hustlers at Scores’), the film follows a reporter, played by Julia Stiles, gathering the story from ex-hustler Destiny (Constance Wu). Sat on her couch, Destiny recounts to a reporter the story of how she became involved with experienced stripper Ramona (Jennifer Lopez), how they became an unstoppable stripping force, but were caught out by the 2008 recession that took their clients. Years later, after Destiny’s return to stripping, Ramona shares with her a way to con their clients out of more money, by drugging them to make them more susceptible to spending at the club. What follows is a raucous, tense, and laugh-out-loud funny Robin-Hood-thriller that will have you questioning your own morals until the last moment.
One thing about Hustlers, that cannot be denied, is that Wu and Lopez shine. Jennifer Lopez is fabulous and fearless as Ramona, bringing unparalleled BDE and demanding respect. Constance Wu’s Destiny is more understated, but she brings the character to life with pointed stares and her clipped tone. Hustlers was marketed as a star-studded film, and it certainly delivered. Other names promised included Lizzo and Cardi B, however, both seemed to simply be used to sell the film, their roles fell flat and were unnecessary, a crying shame for fans of either.
Another role that fell flat was, unfortunately, Julia Stiles as Elizabeth, the reporter. She didn’t bring much except to contextualise the film as a true-life story, and her scenes were by far not ones I looked forward to seeing. As well as this, the third act of the film focused much more on the story of the article and the report, which could sometime seem jarring and take us out of the high-stakes flashbacks that we had become so invested in. This was a shame considering how much time and effort the film put in to create that investment in the first two acts, which worked tremendously.
What Hustlers did have was real stand-out funny moments, often perpetuated by Palmer and Reinhart as the loveable sidekicks in Destiny and Ramona’s schemes. Reinhart especially is more lovably innocent than ever, and she is finally given a chance to show us what she’s got when faced with a high-quality script. As well as this, Hustlers shines at giving us the sense that these women love each other. In a particularly giddy sequence, the girls spend Christmas together at Ramona’s apartment, and we truly see their connections and the dependence they have on each other, financially and emotionally. It’s heart-warming, and the film eventually has the audience questioning whether the moral implications of their scheming are actually black-or-white.
Overall, Hustlers has something for everyone. It has all the tension and drama of a heist movie, a la Oceans 8 or Widows, but all the heart of a chick-flick comedy. Filled with larger-than-life characters and unruly situations that will have you laughing, crying and cringing.