Review: Hustlers (2019)

I want Jennifer Lopez to be my personal life coach.

I say this all the time but if I were in better shape, I would 100 per cent become a stripper.

I’m serious.

I love to dance, the money seems pretty good and any job where you can work well into the night is one that I can get behind. Alas, I will never have the upper body strength, collection of fabulous coats or raw sex appeal to live the life. Instead I’ll have to live vicariously through Hustlers (2019) and its incredibly talented cast. Admittedly, when I first heard of Hustlers I assumed it would be a movie that would be embarrassingly melodramatic but still silly and campy. Boy, was I wrong. While still being a ton of uproarious fun, Hustlers successfully crafts a fast-paced, high-stakes thriller. A sensational story that will have you on the edge of your seat from start to finish, this movie is astounding. It’s official. I need to start going to the gym to work on my upper body strength. I need a back-up plan if this whole writing thing doesn’t work out.

Screen Shot 2019-09-20 at 9.21.36 PM
Credit: imdb.com / STXfilms

Inspired by a true story, Hustlers follows Destiny, a stripper who once flourished in the business, but has fallen on hard times since the financial crisis of 2007-2008. Reuniting with her former mentor Ramona Vega, the pair assemble a crew of strippers to hustle enormous amounts of money from the stock traders and CEOs who visit their club. What once was a harmless hustle soon devolves into a dangerous game of fraud.

I just want it noted that the screening I went to was packed with seniors. Granted, I was at the 1:30 p.m. showing on Sunday, but I was shocked nonetheless. I didn’t think a Jennifer Lopez stripping crime drama would be their cup of tea but they were having just as much fun as I was. Those grannies were rad. Really, this just proves that Hustlers is a movie that anyone can enjoy. A colourful and stunning look at the highs and lows of the world of stripping, writer / director Lorene Scafaria effortlessly creates a gripping world that audiences will have no trouble stepping into. And much like the club itself, once you step into the world of Hustlers, you’ll never want to leave.

Every costume is memorably jaw-dropping (um, hello to J.Lo’s “fuck off” fur coat!) each cast member shines brighter than the stage lights (we’ll talk about them!) and the soundtrack is a crowd-pleasing delight. “Beautiful Girls,” “Gimme More” and “Rag Doll?” Scafaria basically just lifted my party playlist. Succeeding where past movies chronicling the lives of strippers have failed, Scafaria masterfully mixes the sexy fun of Showgirls (1995) with the human interest of Magic Mike (2012). The former, though a camp classic,  was impossible to take seriously and the latter was anything but interesting. Hustlers however is dripping with fun and charm, while also making you invest in the stories of its alluring cast of characters.

This cast is EVERYTHING. Let’s break it down, shall we? In what amount to cameo roles, you have Lizzo and Cardi B who are both incredibly fun to watch in their film debuts. The two rappers steal each scene they’re in and though I wouldn’t have been mad if they had stuck around for the entire movie, the small amounts they were featured were perfection. Oh, and speaking of cameos…Usher! God, I miss Usher…Then in supporting roles you have Keke Palmer and Lili Reinhart, each one endowing this hustle with equal doses of heart and hilarity. Palmer and Reinhart are great comedic relief. Sidenote, when she’s not spouting the absurd lines she’s forced to perform on Riverdale (2017 – present), I find Reinhart to be a pleasing actress who I’d love to see in more comedic roles. Speaking of, if you’re aching for more Keke Palmer in your life, please check her out on Scream Queens (2015 – 2016). She’s a pure delight.

Finally we come to the stars of Hustlers, Constance Wu and Jennifer Lopez. Wu is spectacular. As Destiny, she shows off her impressive range as an actress. In one scene she’ll have you moved to tears as she struggles to make ends meet and support her grandmother and daughter and in the next she’ll have you gasping at the levels of deceit she’ll sink to in order to reach her goals. This is a great role for Wu, one that only assures her rising star and prowess as an actress. It’s completely different from her Crazy Rich Asians (2018) role that fans know and love, proving that in addition to incredible acting chops and charisma to spare, Wu has the range. You know how I knew I was Team Destiny? When early into the movie she sums up my new life mantra: “I don’t want to be dependent on anyone. Ever. I just wanna take care of my grandma and go shopping every once in a while.” GOALS.

For her role as veteran stripper and hustling mastermind Ramona Vega, Jennifer Lopez has been generating some serious Oscar buzz. You guys, it’s not hard to see why. Whether she’s dancing or acting, Lopez is mesmerizing to watch. She commands every scene she’s in in a way that I’ve never seen her do before. Truly, she transforms into Ramona. She adopts all of Ramona’s ambition, warmth, penchant for luxury and yes, even her mean streak. As well, she adopts her life as a stripper. Lopez is so incredible as a dancer, she could walk into a strip club tomorrow and I’m confident she’d get top billing. Fun fact, it only took Lopez a few weeks to get ready for this role and yet she looks like she’s been doing it her whole life. Watching Lopez, the actress who starred in rom-coms like The Wedding Planner (2001) and The Back-up Plan (2010) completely melts away. Her performance is so transcendent, it’ll shatter any previous notions you had about the triple-threat. This is the best work Lopez has done in years, possibly in her entire acting career. Y’know except for Monster-in-Law (2005) of course. Which, in my opinion, knocks the socks off of Citizen Kane (1941).

With Hustlers, Scafaria is sure to make a name for herself as the next big director to watch. Sympathetic, intoxicating, and brilliantly deplorable, it’s incredible how one movie can thrill and entertain with so little. The movie is driven simply by its flawless performances and whip-smart writing, as all great movies are. Scafaria excels in her visual storytelling, ensuring that Hustlers is pleasurable for the eyes and the ears. Never dull, this is a movie that will hold you in its clutches all night long. Even if you think it doesn’t seem like your kind of movie, I implore you to see Hustlers. Take a chance on this smart, funny, dynamic, phenomenal movie. Trust me, there’s no hustle here. Just one night of excess and excellence. And in case anyone from the cast or crew reads this, I promise to be in stripping shape by the time filming for Hustlers 2: Luke Takes Centre Stage begins.

Will you see Hustlers? What’s you favourite Jennifer Lopez movie?

Let me know in the comments or on social media!

 

 

 

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