Let's just get this right out there- Hustlers (2019) is the film of the summer, and yes summer, because it is not technically fall yet. It is also my new favorite performances from Jennifer Lopez and Constance Wu. It was a great blockbuster debut for Lili Reinhart. Keke Palmer truly shined, and Cardi B and Lizzo were absolutely fun to watch on screen. Hustlers (2019) is a female-dominated film, and it unapologetically steps on the necks of cis-males everywhere. Written and directed by Lorena Scafaria, this film handles the complexities of friendships, economic struggles, and sex all so gracefully.
For a little backstory, Hustlers is based on the true story of Samantha Barbash and Roselyn Keo meeting at a strip club, and after the 2008 market crash, running a hustle where they would meet up with wealthy clients and get them drunk (or drugged if need be.) Then, they would take them back to the strip club and rack up thousands of the dollars at the club on their credit card, while collecting commission from the club. Most of their clientele were Wall Street men, and the film can portray it as a sort of act of revenge, but in her iconic interview that the film is based on Keo stated, "The reason why Wall Street guys party so hard is because they're not happy with their jobs. You make money, but you're not happy, so you go out and splurge on strip clubs and drinking and drugs, then the money depletes and you have to make it again."
The film follows Dorothy (Constance Wu) under her guise of "Destiny," a new-to-the-city stripper who befriends the veteran Ramona (Jennifer Lopez.) Ramona exudes sex and confidence- her opening scene transcends from her dancing on stage while Dorothy watches in awe, to her sitting on the roof in a bikini and a fur coat smoking a cigarette. She brings a young Dorothy under her coat- literally and figuratively- that night, and starting with this tender moment they share on the roof, the girls were able to blossom a complicated, yet loving and strong, bond together.
On the surface this film is a very eccentric, fun, and provocative story about a group of women tired of being walked all over, looking for revenge and fun, and drugging and scamming the wealthy out of thousands of dollars. Underneath the surface, however, this film is a story about the complex female relationship and motherhood, and it's about a group of women striving for the stability and financial safety they have watched less-deserving men receive without struggle.
Lopez's charisma and mothering attitude invites the many women of the film into her world, into her arms, and in love with her, as well as the audience. When she celebrated, I celebrated. When she cried, I cried. When she demanded attention as Ramona, she received it on all fronts. It was a mesmerizing performance, one that convinced her companions to do as she pleased and feel safe and comfortable that she would protect them from retaliation. The complexity of her mothering yet selfish nature conflicted your opinions of her character. While Dorothy pans back and forth between herself and "Destiny," you see the complexity of her personality- changing who she is depending on the situation at hand as a way to protect herself in multiple ways. Ramona is and stays Ramona. Her complex nature is who she is, but that true nature remains an enigma. She keeps you on the leash, one step behind her and unknowing of who she truly is and was before and after Ramona.
Dorothy once describes Ramona in the film as the one in control the whole time. With female relationships, there can be a duality of mutual respect and love, but in many friendships, there is also the "mother" of a group or duo. Because of Dorothy's difficult history with her mother, it was easy to accept Ramona in that role and feel inclined to respect her decisions and trust her words more than you would in the usual scope of a friendship. The girls continue a whirlwind of emotions and predicaments that push and pull them together throughout the film. In the end, it is the very thing that brought them together that severs the ties between them for good- motherhood. "Motherhood is a mental illness," Ramona once say in the film. This mental illness drives these two women through every decision made, every good, and every bad day.
This film brought out every emotion possible in me, and I awed at the girls laughing and enjoying each other. There is something truly admirable and beautiful about female friendship. It is a constant push and pull between power, love, and unconditional support. When J-Lo gives her final monologue about Dorothy, it is an honest and loving reminiscence of the unconditional love shared between best friends.
With that being said, this film is shot beautifully under the neon lights and vibrant outfits. Usually interview-setting films can be tricky with the time jumps and keeping the relevancy of the interview throughout the film, but this film does not do that. I enjoyed Julia Stiles part in this film, and her relevancy carries throughout. The acting carries much of the impact of this film, but that doesn't take away the fact that it's stunning, well-thought out, and tactically shot. Overall, this was one of my favorite theatrical viewings of the year, and I was never bored for a second.
Jacindable Rating: ★★★½
starring, Jennifer Lopez, Constance Wu, Julia Stiles, Keke Palmer, Lili Reinhart, Madeline Brewer and more
written and directed by, Lorene Scafaria