movies

Five good reasons to go and see Hustlers. And two not-so-good ones.

They say it’s going to win Jennifer Lopez an Oscar. They say it’s the female Goodfellas. They say it’s an empowering tale of female friendship. They also say it’s cheap thrills set in a strip club.

We’re talking about Hustlers, the most hyped movie release of the Spring. And if you’re deciding whether or not to go there, here are the cliff-notes:

It’s one hell of a good true story.

Hustlers is based on a New York magazine article written by Jessica Pressler in 2015. The article was called The Hustlers At Scores, and told the true story of a group of exotic dancers in a New York City strip club who, struggling to make a living after the Global Financial Crisis seriously affected their bottom line, came up with an illegal and high-risk side-hustle. They met men out at bars, spiked their drinks, dragged them back to the club and then fleeced their credit cards for thousands. It really happened, it’s a remarkable story of the underdog biting the hand that feeds, and it comes with a side of sex. What’s not to love?

You can read about the real women represented in Hustlers, here.

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JLo is as great as they say.

The lead in this story is Crazy Rich Asians’ Constance Wu. The story is told through her eyes as Destiny (or Dorothy, depending on who you are to her), who’s our avatar as we enter the world of underground clubs that service Wall Street’s varying levels of alpha males. And she’s great, just the right mix of vulnerable and hard-edged as the motherless young woman who wants to help pay off her grandma’s debts and “maybe go shopping once in a while”. But the star-power comes from Jennifer Lopez, who hoovers up all the oxygen in every room as chief-heister and veteran dancer Ramona. She’s a mother hen, a ruthless opportunist, and Wu’s Obi Wan of #stripperlife. “JLo” is so electric, so convincing and so deeply committed to Ramona, it would be hard to remember she was JLo, except for the fact that she looks, you know, like that.

Lizzo and Cardi B are in it.

Yep. And Lizzo is a stripper who plays the flute. Cardi B teaches Destiny how to eke out a lucrative lap-dance  – “Drain the clock, not the cock” is her most-memorable line – and that about sums up what you’re in for, at least in the early scenes where we’re all getting a crash-course in Hustler lore.

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Wu and Lopez score back-up from Lili Reinhart and Keke Palmer as the other members of their criminal crew. And Julia Stiles plays the journalist who Destiny’s opening up to. Oh, and Usher turns up to play himself, coming into the club to shower everyone with $100 bills, right before everything goes to shit.

Lizzo turns in a very welcome cameo as one of the dancers in Hustlers. Image: STX Films.

It's a woman's movie.

A movie written and directed by a woman - Lorene Scafaria - starring all women, about a gang of women - Hustlers would be termed a chick-flick if it wasn't for all the grinding (although, hey, it's hot). All the men in it are almost incidental to the action - a parade of foolish, weak-charactered Johns whose money, we're encouraged to believe, is much better off in the hands of our heroines. After all, these guys are criminals too, right? Up to their white-collars in corporate fraud, they're toxic with greed and tired from screwing over the little guy. And the relationships between the women are genuinely touching, multi-layered and complicated. So, you know, you go, girls. BUT:

There's a LOT of gratuitous shopping

What do women do when they get money? Apparently they spend it on handbags, designer heels, flashy cars and fur coats. Hustlers spends a lot of time on lingering close-ups and joyful unveilings off all the fancy things with labels that Destiny, Ramona and their sisterhood splash all their cash on when they get it. The celebration of conspicuous consumerism feels more noughties than now, which very much grounds the movie in its time but has a whiff of the Sex And The City movies about it. And no-one wants a whiff of the Sex And The City movies...

Hustlers movie true story
Constance Wu and Jennifer Lopez play real life former-strippers, Roselyn Keo and Samantha Barbash. Image: STXfilms.
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"It's Britney, Bitch."

The soundtrack. Janet Jackson. Lorde. Fifty Cent. Every club song from the noughties. And, of course, Cardi B and Usher. It's like you're getting ready to go out. For two hours straight.

And, remember:

This is not really what 50 looks like, people.

Yes, Jennifer Lopez really does look like this at 50 years old. But no-one else does. And that's okay.

Jennifer Lopez, as Ramona, takes Constance Wu, as Destiny, through some beginner pole moves. Image: STX Films

Did you see Hustlers? Did you enjoy it? 

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