`We're a family now. A family with money!`
Cast: Jennifer Lopez, Constance Wu, Cardi B, Keke Palmer, Julia Stiles, Lili Reinhart, Lizzo, Madeline Brewer, and Stormi Maya.
Director: Lorene Scafaria
"Hustlers" is a movie about people on the fringes left to scrape enough for their survival. Staying alive isn't a pretty business, as these women are constantly on their feet trying to stay afloat. Sometimes they let their morals waver in the quest to make life easier. They don't look at life begrudgingly as a constant 'what to do next? 'runs through their head. Circumstances don't allow them to look up and complaint, so they do what they have to do. At this point, any kind of thought about consequences goes out the window.
Dorothy (Constance Wu) is a young immigrant woman, who goes by the name Dawn at a strip club called Moves. She's working hard but barely getting by, something which isn't what she wants because she wants to support her grandma. Also, she would very much like to go out shopping once in a while. Soon, she meets an enigmatic dancer called Ramona (Jennifer Lopez). Soon, a friendship blossoms between the two as Dorothy/Destiny learns a lot about their business and how she could increase her cash flow. Together they become a class act, bringing in money they've never seen before.
But it's 2008; the financial crisis has hit the country and hence, a now pregnant Dorothy has to go back to her job. But times have changed, as her co-workers are now willing to provide additional services. In spite of her hardships, Dorothy strongly resists the idea. Soon, fortune smiles on her as she reconnects with Ramona. Ramona, who is incredibly savvy, has found her niche in drugging men and stealing their credit cards. She introduces Dorothy to her crew - Annabelle and Mercedes (Lili Reinhart and Keke Palmer). Dorothy joins in and soon, all these women experience unprecedented cash flow and a familial bond with each other. But they are walking on a line close to criminal, and soon their house of cards begins to fall.
`Hustler` is a gritty crime, but there are also a lot of excellent comedic moments, exceptionally delivered by Lili Reinhart. The subject matter, which could have been crudely conceived, is nicely treated with empathy. Reminiscent of Scorsese's `Goodfellas` this movie is grand and highly stylized, made even better by a very meticulous direction from Lorene Scafaria. The strip-club scenes, shot without the acidic male gaze are flashy, without being an assault on your eyes. Throughout the movie, there's an energetic pulse that's meaningful, creative and passionate; something that beautifully resonates in the soundtrack.
All the women are great here, especially Jennifer Lopez who is at her gamely best. Lopez capitalizes on her charming dialogue and brutish swagger, weaponizing her sexuality to get what she wants. This standout performance in the movie could land Lopez a very-well deserved Oscar nomination. Jennifer Lopez as Ramona Vega doesn't have a set moral compass, and it falls on the audience to decide how to perceive her.
The biggest risk that the movie runs is falling into the entrapment of its vicious hypocrisy because at the end of the day it is about a band of thieves robbing people blind. As these women compulsively move forward, they alienate us more with their indifference. But right and wrong, truth and lie can never be oversimplified, and Lorene Scafaria plays a pretty good devil's advocate here.
"Hustlers" is one of the most honest movies to come out this year, the one which doesn't glorify crime, but humanizes what the hustle stands for. The movie is a glorious celebration of friendship amongst women and unabashed portrayal of femininity, all packaged with tenderness and love.