Directed by: Lorene Scafaria
Written by: Lorene Scafaria
Starring: Jennifer Lopez, Constance Wu, Julia Stiles, Keke Palmer & Lili Reinhart
Rating: R (for pervasive sexual material, drug content, language and nudity)
Genre: Crime, Drama
Release date: Sep 13, 2019 (Wide)
Runtime: 107 minutes
It’s been a minute since Jennifer Lopez sunk her teeth into a serious role. Hustlers offers the pop star the opportunity and she makes the most of it, delivering a career-highlighting performance and undoubtedly her best since 1998’s Out of Sight. Funny enough that film was directed by Steven Soderbergh, who is best known for the Ocean’s trilogy which follows a crew of unlikely criminal masterminds as they pull of a series of increasingly elaborate heists in the name of ripping off the rich. Hustlers often adheres to the familiar caper blue prints utilized so effectively in those films: stylish direction, a charismatic cast, consistent laughs, and of course the white knuckle thrill of nearly blowing an entire operation when a single detail doesn’t go as planned. The results, however, are much more muddled.
We follow Constance Wu’s Dorothy (often addressed by her stage name, Destiny), who’s struggling to make ends meet as the newest member at a night club. She’s quickly taken under the wing of Ramona (Lopez), a charismatic dancer who’s experienced in the art of seduction, and introduced to the club’s close-knit sisterhood of strippers. From there Hustlers chronicles the rise and fall (and rise and fall, again) of Dorothy and her new family.
During the first act writer/director Lorene Scafaria effectively and efficiently establishes the electric, neon-laden domain over which these ladies rule. Guided by Ramona’s rules of engagement, Destiny learns the ropes as we learn the allure of a career that can eventually garner an expert performer the type of power and influence that far exceeds the bright lights of a strip club stage. It’s a refreshing examination of a job that many look down upon as desperate and dehumanizing. Visually, Scafaria fills the screen with catchy, candy-colored florescent’s that dazzle as much as any routine at the pole.
The central conflict hits about halfway through the film when the 2008 financial collapse leaves many of the club’s wealthy visitors and consequentially the club itself penniless. Once again facing tough times, Ramona and her girls concoct a malicious scheme to drug and mug the rich club patrons who are left. This leads the way to a second act that’s dragged way down by repetitive montages that see J-Lo and her crew luring guys into a back room, distract then while spiking their specialty beverage, and ends with them charging their company cards at some high-end store. Scafaria even employs the same whip-around camera movements (a Soderbergh specialty) each time.
Convinced that what they’re doing is its own form of justice, Hustlers positions itself as a character-driven moral examination of these women’s crimes and the many lives they ruin. The script spans the real life reign of these women’s crimes, from 2008-2015, which unfortunately only leaves us with a shallow summation of events instead of a wholly developed and compelling narrative.
Have you had a chance yet to check out Hustlers? If so, what did you think? Did you enjoy it like so many others are? Or do you fall more in line with me? I want to hear from you so swing on down to the comments below and share your thoughts!