by Amanda Landwehr / Arts & Culture Editor
Featuring shiny lip gloss, body glitter and even a surprise cameo appearance by Usher, “Hustlers” is a love letter to the gaudy culture of early 2000s nightlife. Constance Wu and Jennifer Lopez play a compelling duo of nightclub strippers trying to make a living by scamming Wall Street Elites out of their money. True to its title, this movie hustled—and it worked.
“Hustlers” is based off of an article published in 2015 by New York Magazine reporter Jessica Pressler. Adapted to the big screen by director Lorene Scafaria, “Hustlers” explores the intimacy of friendship, sexuality and the sometimes reckless desire for money and power through the story of Dorothy, a New York-based strip club employee.
From the moment she steps into the stagelight, all eyes are drawn to Jennifer Lopez. She plays the character of Ramona, a veteran strip club dancer and mentor to protagonist Dorothy. Lopez’ stunning choreography and embodiment of real-life stripper Samantha Foxx were nothing short of impressive. Constance Wu gave a compelling performance as Dorothy, a single mother and victim of childhood trauma attempting to care for her elderly grandmother and young daughter. Accompanied by flashy drop-in performances from the likes of Cardi-B and Lizzo, this ensemble of women was nothing short of breathtaking.
Audiences are presented with a multitude of dazzling scenes showing Dorothy and Ramona riding out the ecstasy of their money-scamming heist as they drug and woo Wall Street’s millionaires. Joined by fellow con accompanices Annabelle (Lili Reinhart) and Mercedes (Keke Palmer), these women are often shown purchasing new apartments, Louis Vitton purses and luxury cars. These scenes are nothing short of entertaining, but the introduction of journalist Elizabeth (portrayed by Julia Stiles) foreshadows an end to Dorothy and Ramona’s perfect con. Throughout the film, vignettes of Dorothy speaking to Elizabeth clearly indicate that her and Ramona’s scam has been released to the public. Soon after this scene, Dorothy, Ramona, Mercedes and Annabelle are shown getting arrested—the perfect crime has finally come to an end after police had been notified about the women’s criminal activity.
In all honesty, I had low expectations for “Hustlers.” The trope of good people doing something bad, going too far with their criminal behaviors, eventually getting caught and somehow earning a heroic redemption arc had already been explained to me through movies such as “Wolf of Wall Street” and “Catch Me If You Can” (Leonardo Dicaprio reference, anyone?). Because of this, I expected “Hustlers” to be a repeat of this exhausted cinematic theme, reliant on its star-studded cast and Cardi-B ridden soundtrack. However, “Hustlers” proved to be a surprisingly complex drama about the intimacies of womanhood, family and survival that was cleverly written and brilliantly executed by an all star cast.
8 out of 10 torches