You don’t even wonder, if it’s a if or a maybe, this track is hard, this is the hardest record out… … ... I get money, I I get money I I get I get I get I get I get money, money I got… … … I GET IT!
To say that “Hustlers” Has tapped into a special place in my heart is an understatement. I’m putting this on front street, this movie didn’t have to work too hard to win me over.
2007, what a year. Definitely, one of the best years in my lifetime for many reasons. The summer of 07’ was pivotal to my growth as a man and was like a season long bachelor party. I’m glad that those who know me now didn’t back then. Not that I was a bad guy or anything but, I was single, irresponsible and was getting to the money by any means necessary. I was a fixture in clubs of the non-stripping variety. I mixed and mingled and may have got into a little trouble along the way, also of the non-criminal variety.
It all went down between LA, NY, and Miami. Yeah, that kind of summer. My anthem was highlighted by all the hits of the year and the characters of my production called life were colorful and lively to say the least. Like the ones in this film, what we all had in common was a burning desire to get money and spend it.
Yeah, we were on some juvenile, shit.
I’m glad I got it all out of my system and didn’t get caught up like others have before it was too late.
Destiny (Constance Wu) is the new girl at a popular gentleman’s club in NYC. She’s dealing with a lot in her personal and professional life and looks to a warm and welcoming vet of the stage, Ramona (Jennifer Lopez) for mentorship. Ramona takes Destiny under her wing. She shows her the ropes, the tricks of trade, what to look out for and who. Their working relationship becomes much more and blossoms into sisterhood. However, The Housing Market Crash of 2008 changed their lives in a way none of them were prepared for. With less work, a new boyfriend and a baby on the way Destiny was forced to walk away from it all. Years later, with her life feeling in shambles Destiny returns to work back at the club to see a world completely changed and women even more desperate to get their lives back. To her surprise she reunites with Ramona and their relationship doesn’t skip a beat. So much so Ramona lets Destiny in on a scheme she’s concocted to where there days giving lap dances would be done. But, at what cost is the question Destiny must ask herself.
Destiny feels so familiar to me. I’ve dated girls like her, had friends like her, and even thought like her. She’s not necessarily the bad guy. Interestingly enough Lorene Scafarias script is all about the gray parts of the world we live in. No one is truly black and white. Or at least folks do a great job at hiding their black or their white. One of my favorite lines in this film was right at the end delivered by Ramona, “This city, the whole country, is a strip club. You’ve got people tossing the money, and people doing the dance.”
Really sums up the strong thematic elements at work in this story. This plays very straight and didn’t have an inauthentic Hollywood polish to it like I thought it would. This is a gritty and dirty crime drama with comedic elements balanced throughout behind the strength of the co-leads. Money and power if anything could be the villains in this story. The way they manipulate people and bring out the worse in them. The choice to have Destiny as our avatar and Ramona as our Sherpa works great too and gives us a reveal behind an all too real curtain in our society. Its unafraid to explore the inner-workings of dancing and the clientele that support the industry. It would’ve been nice to introduce another perspective from the wall street side of the aisle as most of the depictions in the film appear to be one sided, but then again this is a specific lens from a specific person.
Constance Wu absolutely crushes this performance. Her characterization, speech, body language screams so believable on screen. She demonstrates effective range that’s heart felt and magnetic. You want to cheer for her character even though she’s doing dirt and you’re intrigued to where her character is willing to go. There’s a unique choice employed in how we see her and travel with her throughout the film where you’re unsure of what will and has already happened.
Jennifer Lopez turns in another strong performance that in my opinion isn’t worthy of the Oscar acclaim she’s been getting, but that’s not a bad thing. Ramona is strong, smart, maybe one of the most gorgeous strippers I’ve ever seen, but she’s a true boss. She’s effortlessly charismatic and you get behind her even when downright awful things are spearheaded by her. She’s physically enrapturing; mastering a dance style, alone that’s truly worth the price of admission. I just wish her character was a bit more fleshed out to give us layers as to who she is and why she chooses to connect with Destiny and other girls so easily. I was craving throughout the movie, just waiting for her “Dark Night of the Soul”. That could’ve pushed her performance over the top, but without it felt a little hollow.
The other supporting players had their additions to the film and made for great set dressing. But of course, this is a story focused on 2 ladies, so I’m not too hung up at how little other members of the cast served the story except to just move the plot.
I won’t fault the film for some aggressive marketing choices that were made as it doesn’t cheapen the narrative but may cheapen your expectations.
The music, evident in my opening is a strong supporting player at constructing the vibe 2007-2008 was and is the anchor to what sells the story. The production design equally complements the aesthetic to make this a gratifying cinematic experience.
So, I had my trepidations going in. I thought I was going to get “Widows” with less clothes. I actually got “The Big Short” with less clothes. “Hustlers” is a fun, stylized, not too polished film that cast great talents like Wu and Lopez to bring a delightfully sexy perspective to a crime drama that’s refreshing to have female led on screen. These women are strong, resourceful, and a unique family. The rest of the actor’s sprinkle in just enough good chemistry to elevate the short comings of some surface level written characters and a movie, where the 1st half is stronger than the 2nd. Although, the focus is on the bond between Destiny and Ramona and it absolutely showcases that and wins you over. A “Thelma and Louise” Pole dancing story that teaches hard lessons on life, love and how America too, is a lot like a strip club. Were all dancin’ for money if you think about it!
KOLBYTOLDME RATING- 7/10
Director: Lorene Scafaria
Writer: Lorene Scafaria, Jessica Pressler (Magazine Article)
Starring: Constance Wu, Jennifer Lopez, Julia Stiles, Keke Palmer, Lili Reinhart, Lizzo, Cardi B
Run Time: 110 mins