Hustlers Review by Tim Nasson

September 11, 2019

The STX Films publicity machine is in full force, getting (at least trying to get) trade publications and some critics to buy into the idea that Jennifer Lopez is Oscar worthy for her role in Hustlers, the true story of a crew of savvy former strip club employees who band together to turn the tables on their Wall Street clients.

Chances are she will not receive an Oscar nomination. Traditionally, Oscar voters eschew pop stars when it comes to nominations, think Madonna for Evita, Courtney Love for The People vs. Larry Flint and even Lopez for her breakout performance in Selena. However, there are outliers; Lady Gaga for A Star Is Born (she lost), Jennifer Hudson for Dreamgirls (she won), Queen Latifah for Chicago (she lost), Bette Midler for For The Boys (she lost). The last pop singer to win the Oscar for Best Actress was Cher in 1988 for her role in Moonstruck.

As for the movie, Hustlers is surprisingly captivating, but only because of its actors and their immeasurable talent. The screenplay and direction by Lorene Scafaria are painfully awful. The movie is based on a magazine article by Jessica Pressler (played by a stoic Julia Stiles). But Lopez, as Ramona, the glue that keeps the stripper ‘sisters’ together, and Candace Wu as Destiny, are the heart and soul of the film.

Hustlers

The two – and a handful of others – band together to turn the tables on their Wall Street clients. The story begins at the start of 2007, where Destiny (Wu) is a young woman struggling to make ends meet, to provide for herself and her grandma (Wai Ching Ho). But it’s not easy: the managers, DJs, and bartenders expect a cut– one way or another – leaving Destiny with a meager payday after a long night of stripping.

Her life is forever changed when she meets Ramona (Jennifer Lopez), the club’s top money earner, who’s always in control, has the clientele figured out, and really knows her way around a pole. The two women bond immediately, and Ramona gives Destiny a crash course in the various poses and pole moves like the carousel, fireman, front hook, ankle-hook, and stag. And Lopez, who got her start as a ‘fly girl’ on the 1990s sketch show In Living Color, does all of her own moves. She looks better than any nearly naked 50 year old that I have ever seen. (The fifty year old Lopez is actually playing someone who is ten years younger).

But Destiny’s most important lesson is that when you’re part of a broken system, you must hustle or be hustled.

Jennifer Lopez

To that end, Ramona outlines for her the different tiers of the Wall Street clientele who frequent the club. The two women find themselves succeeding beyond their wildest dreams, making more money than they can spend – until the September 2008 economic collapse. Wall Street stole from everyone and never suffered any consequences. Now, Ramona, Destiny, and two dancers who’ve joined their little family – Mercedes (Keke Palmer) and the
young and innocent Annabelle (Lili Reinhart) – look to turn the tables. They cook up an inventive scheme to get their lives back on the fast-track to success. The game is still rigged against them, so to even the playing field Ramona devises a special drug cocktail of ecstasy and roofies that leaves their customers helpless against the ladies’ charms. Nobody’s really getting hurt, they reason; it’s just like robbing a bank, except the men are handing them the keys. The foursome create a bond tighter than any family—until things get out of control, when one of their ‘victims’ goes to a daily New York City newspaper, which splashes his story on their front page.

Cardie B and Lizzo make brief appearances towards to the beginning of the film as strippers. It is hard to believe (or maybe not) that a morbidly obese stripper (Lizzo) would be employed at a strip club. However, at strip clubs, which are all seedy, there are apparently tastes for everything.

Oscar winner Mercedes Ruehl plays Mother, the proprietor of the strip club, to perfection.

If there is one person who deserves an Oscar nomination for the film it is Wu. She literally steals the film.

Hustlers Review by Tim Nasson

Hustlers Trailer

Hustlers Review by Tim Nasson Posters and Photos

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