“Hustlers” is more than just the ultimate feminist movie. It’s a sobering, insightful look at the good, bad, and ugly of chasing the American dream and offers a screen load of ideas about the way capitalism works.
It also features a nuanced, Oscar-level performance by Jennifer Lopez (Out Of Sight, Selena) as the leader of a group of New York strippers whose eye-opening professional life consists of grinding, pole dancing, dollar bills, music, sex, and demanding men.
Lopez eventually creates a family unit of ladies who find themselves in disparaging financial situations. So, what do they do? They create a way to scam their mostly Wall Street customers by drugging them and running up their credit cards. An illegal operation at best, and unsettling to watch. The film is loosely based on the book, “The Hustlers At Scores,” by Jessica Pressler.
But there is also something enlightening going on here.
Writer-director Lorene Scafaria (Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World) digs deeper than cliches and reveals the guilty side of earnest people making bad decisions. “Hustlers” is not the female side of “Magic Mike” but more like “The Big Short” meets “Wonder Woman.” It’s not surprising that Adam McKay (Booksmart, Vice, The Big Short) co-produced the film with Will Ferrell and Jennifer Lopez.
Constance Wu (Crazy Rich Asians), Keke Palmer (Akeelah And The Bee), and Lily Reinhart (The Kings Of Summer) round out the group supported by Mercedes Reuhl, Cardi B, and Lizzo. An impressive cast working with an impressive director on a film that had me thinking and talking long after the credits.
For instance, there is a line in the film that says, “America is one big strip club, and all of us are dancers.” In any other film that would have been a predictable cliche but in the context of “Hustlers” it rings depressingly true.
And, the men in the film are seen and heard as interchangeable male egos with deep pockets and bad behavior. It’s a fascinating film to watch and told entirely from the ladies’ point of view.
I haven’t been this pleasantly surprised, and challenged, by a film in a long, long time.
Gary Cogill is an Emmy award-winning film critic, speaker and film producer. His wife, Hayley Hamilton Cogill, is a sommelier, wine writer, and educator. Together they host “Cogill Wine And Film, A Perfect Pairing” podcast on reVolverPodcasts.com while living on Hawaii Island in Waimea.