Hustlers is directed by Lorene Scafaria and stars Jennifer Lopez as Ramona, Constance Wu as Destiny, Keke Palmer as Mercedes, and Lili Reinhart as Annabelle. The film is based on a true story where a few strippers hit hard times during the 2008 financial crisis and have to consider new ways of making an income. I don’t want to go more into detail than that, but the story was first publicized on Vulture by Jessica Pressler, which you can find here.
I don’t think I saw a single trailer for this film. I was bored yesterday and instead of going to see the extended version of Spider-Man: Far From Home, I thought I’d see something original instead. I didn’t expect much of Hustlers when I got to the theater. I’ve never really been impressed with Jennifer Lopez’s acting abilities before, so I honestly didn’t expect anything special.
I’ll start by saying the film has a very strong opening. The first act is extremely atmospheric and intelligent. We see a number of our characters working at a strip club, and enjoying themselves while they work. The film really shows that stripping isn’t something to be looked down on, rather is an example of feminism. The women are in control, and they’re making a boatload of cash doing what they enjoy.
My favorite thing about Hustlers is the atmosphere in which it was created in. The lighting in this film is brilliant, and while they do get old towards the end, Hustlers uses slow-motion to its advantage a lot. There are many scenes where are characters are doing something at the club and the speed is slowed down, but because the lighting and atmosphere of the scenes are just so strong and intense, the slow-motion works. It looks a bit music video-like at times (with our characters dancing on a man with music playing), but it all generally works. I think that’s something we need to really recognize about director Lorene Scafaria’s work here. In other hands, I think we get a really sloppy film with attractive people dancing. But with Lorene, this film is able to breathe and have fun doing so. The craft is very strong here. It almost felt like a John Wick type of atmosphere at some points, which is an extreme compliment.
There was a lot of buzz coming out of TIFF surrounding Jennifer Lopez’s performance as Ramona, and I think that was well-deserved. She really shines in this film, and I think without her strong, dominant performance, the film wouldn’t have worked as well. Ramona is not a great person. She puts herself above others often, but Lopez’s performance makes the character feel much more layered than she most likely was. I don’t necessarily think Lopez’s performance here is Oscar-worthy, but it’s definitely my favorite performance of her to date.
This role not only demands strong dialogue but physical acting as well. Ramona is somewhat the leader of the group of women at the club, and her physical performances on stage are nothing less than spectacular. The physicality she shows is unprecedented, and Lopez’s all-around performance as Ramona really opened my eyes to her ability as an actress.
The rest of the cast is really solid. There aren’t any performances that necessarily stick out besides Lopez, but I think Constance Wu gives a really believable and strong performance. Her scenes with Jennifer Lopez really stand out.
I think Hustlers felt a bit long in the middle of the film. About 30 minutes feel like the same scene on repeat again and again until finallly we get to the third act. I swore this movie felt like 2 and ½ hours long, rather than it’s 110-minute runtime. The end also doesn’t give as much resolution as some may want, rather leaving the story tied up in a clean and easy bow. It could have done a few things differently at the ending to make it feel like more of an actual ending, rather than a few minutes of stuff before the credits hit.
Hustlers is a really good film. It tells a fascinating story with good acting, great directing, and an intelligent cast who knew what roles each of their characters were supposed to fill. I’m really interested to see what director Lorene Scafaria does next. She was the real star of this film to me, and her directing is what ultimately made this a worthwhile watch for me.