Updated: Sep 23, 2019
Hustlers is inspired by Jessica Pressler’s article 'The Hustlers At Score' for the New York Times, which is about a crew of strippers who embezzle money by drugging stock traders and CEOs during the financial crisis of 2007-2008.
I always knew Jennifer Lopez was an amazing singer but as an actress she never really impressed me, until now. She was absolutely fantastic in this film. she plays Ramona Vega, the veteran stripper and the mastermind behind the scams. This is the role J-Lo was born to play. She has so much attitude, she’s ruthless, and she can rock a pole dance. And I can’t believe this woman is 50 years old!
The story though follows Destiny, who takes on stripping to support her family and looks up to Ramona for the stripping game, ultimately becoming her right-hand woman in the scams. However, she begins to have major doubts when things don’t go quite to plan.
Even though the victims are despicable themselves for the way they treat women and how they obtain the money from the financial crisis, the scams the women pull on them are pretty disturbing at times. With a story like this that follows these woman pulling these scams, it was important to have a protagonist who is likeable and sympathetic. Luckily Destiny’s character works well in that regard, thanks to a great performance by Constance Wu.
The majority of the story is told in flashbacks from Destiny’s point of view, and cutting forward to her speaking to journalist Elizabeth, played by the underrated Julia Stiles, who is loosely based on Jessica Pressler.
Other members of the stripper scamming crew are Mercedes, who needs money for her incarcerated boyfriend’s legal fees, Annabelle who has a weak stomach and later Dawn who’s a drug addict. Keke Palmer, Lili Reinhart and Madeline Brewer all do great jobs in their scenes but were sadly limited.
The film does feature cameos from Cardi B and Lizzo as strippers in the club, and they were fun to watch. There’s also a surprise celebrity cameo; try not to Google it, and let yourself be surprised instead.
Being a film centred on strippers, you’d expect quite a bit of nudity. However, with the exception of J-Lo showing off her bottom at the beginning, none of the leading stars have nude scenes. They certainly ooze a lot of sex appeal in their dialogue and body language, so they are convincing throughout even though nothing is shown. While there is some nudity from a few extras, this is far from an erotic film - if that’s the type of film you’re looking for then I recommend you watch Showgirls (1995).
The film at its core is a crime drama and watching the women put their plans together and pulling off the scams is pretty fascinating. It never once gets boring, it’s always keeping you engaged when they hit their ups, and more importantly when they hit their downs. The intercutting of Destiny’s journey with Ramona to the interviews with Elizabeth are very well done and perfectly timed.
There’s already some Oscar-buzz going around for this film, particularly for Jennifer Lopez’s performance, which I could see happening. The film certainly deserves some awards for its technical approach such as cinematography, sound mixing, and costume designs.
I don’t know how accurate the film is to the true story. I’ve not read Jessica Pressler’s article. However, I do know all the characters' names are different to the real people, which suggests to me that the film is mainly fictional. Also, considering it’s told first person from Destiny’s view, you can say it’s all subjective and possibly exaggerated. I certainly didn’t feel the need to learn the true story to understand what was going on.
Written by Jack Parish