With a star-studded cast of amazing women and an intriguing premise, Hustlers was a breath of fresh air amongst the stale, white-washed, male-centric Hollywood scene.
Although the film was marketed as a ‘feel-good chick flick’ for a girl’s night out, it would be a crime to only see it as such. With critically acclaimed hits such as Whip It and Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, writer and director Lorene Scafaria was the perfect fit for this heist drama. Based on a 2015 New York magazine article, “The Hustlers at Scores,” the film followed a group of strippers turned con-artists, who exact expensive revenge on Wall Street CEO’s and stock traders after the 2008 recession. It took a look at the morality behind the poor stealing from the rich, and what counted as crossing the line.
It was wonderful to see a talented cast of women with a spectrum of skin tones and body shapes that for once didn’t have the plot revolve around aspects of their appearance. Constance Wu stole the show as Dorothy/Destiny as she recalled her experience as a stripper to Elizabeth (Julia Stiles), a reporter who planned to write a tell-all about the exploits of the group. The other half of the duo was Ramona Vega (Jennifer Lopez) who took Destiny under her wing and showed her how to enjoy the finer things in life. Other cast members included Keke Palmer, Lili Reinhart, and a few brief but entertaining scenes with singers Lizzo and Cardi B.
Wu shined as Destiny, taking a break from her more comedic roles and instead showed a raw side of femininity and sexuality. J-Lo was, of course, her charismatic self, though it felt as if she were playing another iteration of a familiar archetype we’ve come to know well from her previous films––down and out but confident, while always being effortlessly sexy.
Hustlers used its spotlight not only to show off the talents of the acclaimed cast, but also to look at the realities of living life as a woman. Focusing on strippers, there was, of course, an emphasis on female sexuality, but it was refreshing for the topic to be handled without the creepy voyeurism of the male gaze that is typical of other films covering a similar subject matter. To these women, their sexuality was a source of income, and for some, a source of power. In a world ruled by rich men, it was their way of gaining the upper hand, however unethical it became.
Scafaria utilised everything at her fingertips to tell an exciting story through the lens of the interview that started it all. Playing with perspective and flashbacks, an interesting element was added to the film that almost encouraged the audience to investigate the real story and to find out the truth behind the events that took place. The film’s only shortcoming was its tone. With a trailer that often portrayed it as a comedy, it was unexpected for the film to have more serious beats than comedic ones. While those dramatic scenes worked well, I couldn’t help but leave with the sense of tonal ambiguity and wished it had committed to one or the other for a more consistent mood.
Hustlers worked on many levels and didn’t let itself be constrained by stereotypes, setting a precedent for other female-led movies. It gave a raw look at the very real class struggle many experience daily, and is a must-watch for anyone looking for a juicy story and well-written characters.
Hustlers is in cinemas now!