“Hustlers” tells the story of New York exotic dancers in the years before and after the 2008 financial crisis. The film follows the women as their means of conning Wall Street businessmen to spend exuberant amounts of money on their services fall foul of the law. The film is based on “The Hustlers at Scores,” a 2015 Robin Hood-esque New York Magazine article authored by Jessica Pressler. The film has gained critical acclaim, with much praise for the principal cast, in particular, Jennifer Lopez.
“Hustlers” was written and directed by Lorene Scafaria (“Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist”, writer, “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World”, director). The cast features previous Golden Globe nominees Jennifer Lopez and Constance Wu, as well as Keke Palmer (“True Jackson, VP”), Lili Reinhart (“Riverdale”), and Julia Stiles (“10 Things I Hate About You”). In addition, the film features supporting performances by Lizzo and Cardi B. The chemistry between Lopez’s seasoned striptease to Wu’s noble novice is instant, and the two breathe life into the film by creating a close family dynamic.
The film features no score; instead, Scafaria hand-picked a soundtrack filled with nightclub hits that reflect both the environment as well as the dancers’ increased dominance over their field of work. Some of the most powerful pop queens – Britney Spears, Rihanna, Lorde – lent their iconic tracks to the film. The familiar tunes complement the cinematography perfectly, as much of the shots are not unlike what is portrayed in pop and R&B music videos. This inclusion of mid-2000s hits create a sense of nostalgia with those who experienced their formative years during the new millennium.
The primary setting for “Hustlers” is the club where the main characters operate. From the moment Dorothy (Wu) walks out from backstage and onto the club floor, the screen is bathed in a bright neon glow which lends itself to some beautiful visuals. The club’s dimly lit champagne rooms also provided an intimate comfortability in otherwise imbalanced scenarios.
The film, while entertaining, was formulaic. The three-act mold was a bit foreseeable. A few dramatic sections could’ve been explored a little deeper but were cut short and not given nearly enough time to have been taken to the next level. Motherhood, for example, is a theme that is touched on briefly, but a child in this movie becomes the victim of speedy pacing above anything.
Overall, the movie feels more of an embrace to female workers rather than making them egregious objects of lust. The women in this movie are pitted against their clients – one-dimensional sleazeball Wall Street brokers. The men, in a reversal of expected gender roles, are targets for our protagonists to swindle reputedly ill-gotten wealth. The take-no-prisoners attitude throughout the women’s quest to tightening their grip on their white collars proves convincing.
Scafaria could’ve provided audiences with a crude, sexually perverse 110 minutes, but instead opted to deliver an honest story that full of heart about an underrepresented reality.