Directed by: Lorene Scafaria
Written by: Lorene Scafaria
Starring: Constance Wu, Jennifer Lopez, Keke Palmer, Lili Reinhart, Julia Stiles, Lizzo, Cardi B
The United States financial crisis of 2007 impacted the jobs of money, but the industries that felt it the most were the ones funded through disposable income that no longer existed. It causes individuals to look for other means of work, and the women of Hustlers utilize another method to take advantage of their clientele, arrogant men.
In trying to support her grandmother, Destiny (Constance Wu) works as a stripper and makes ends meet until she meets the illustrious Ramona (Jennifer Lopez). She takes Destiny under her wing as the newbie learns how to make it in their world. Through the lens of before and after the crisis, Destiny witnesses the world of strip clubs and how they embody this country.
There’s so much beauty in this film, which comes from the relationship of Destiny and Ramona. A bond so strong that carries the audience all throughout this story. It comes from the fantastic performances by Wu and Lopez. Constance serves as the entry point into the world of strip clubs from their high points to the dark moments. If the audience cannot connect with her then the actions that take place later won’t land the same way. The character of Destiny becomes someone to root for because all she just wants to take care of her grandmother and maybe go shopping once in a while. Then comes the incredible performance from Jennifer Lopez, who is out of this world. She brings that motherly presence to all of the other dancers that would make anyone want to work with her. Lopez brings a type of charisma and confidence that men are usually attributed to and steals every single scene in the film. The two work together so well.
From a directing perspective, the craft comes together in an undeniably spectacular way and lands because of the specific choices made by Lorene Scafaria. She shows the world of stripping from the employee side rather than the consumer. These women see stripping as merely a job without all of the glamour and drama that serves as the usual depiction. It’s important to mention that this film looks this way because it was directed by a woman and Scafaria knocks it out of the park. Instead of focusing on the male gaze and what men enjoy about strippers, she focuses on their athleticism. A standout scene comes from the famous introduction of Ramona and the dance she puts on for the patrons. The direction shows Ramona as a master of her craft as the camera holds back and does not zoom in on what male directors would typically display. It’s an important choice along with the characterization of the strippers. How often is there the stripper with a “heart of gold” or some tragic backstory to one of the dancers in various films? Scafaria cuts through all of the nonsense and shows reality. These performers do it because they are terrific at it and the job produces monetary gain for them as does any vocation.
Supporting Wu and Lopez are Keke Palmer and Lili Reinhart, who both deliver incredibly hilarious performances and add their own flavor to the story. Cardi B and Lizzo appear in the film for a limited time but make their presence felt. All of the side characters combined with Destiny and Ramona show the family they created, as would be the case in many workplaces. There are competitive spirits and moments gathering as one with a scene, in particular, that was breathtaking. The scene included all of the dancers out on the stage together that was so gorgeously shot, I could not believe the sisterhood, unbridled love, and pure bliss that all of these dancers had for each other. A family, however, torn apart by Wall Street.
Going to strip clubs becomes an activity patrons typically attend when they have extra money to spend and because of the corruption that took place on Wall Street, all of the money disappeared. Money did not flow through the clubs in the same way, which lead to some unsavory methods needed to make ends meet. The tactic used involved getting men to hang out with the women, get them intoxicated, and then max out their credit cards. The film puts the audience in a place of rooting for these characters and then suddenly have to witness them resort to this method just to make enough money to survive.
This thorough operation was set up to take advantage of the individuals that ruined the lives of millions. When looking at the crimes committed by the women, the true victim of their actions became the ever-fragile male ego. An ego where these men thought that they could purchase credibility and conquests where women would fawn over them. The women maintained such a long-lasting operation because these men would never report what happened because it makes it public that these women never had any interest in them. A difficult reality that these men refused to accept. This does not serve as me condoning the crimes committed by these women, but they needed to resort to these actions because these particular men decided they wanted to put profits over the well-being of others. They returned the favor. It’s up to the audience to decide where they land on that judgment.
All of the other craft elements of the film are also tremendous from the editing to the costume design. The fur coat that Romano wears on the rooftop perfectly embodies the character and the type of lifestyle she aspires to achieve. These costumes further personify these characters and familiarize them with the audience. The editing is sharp and plays well into the fast-paced world these women have found themselves in.
Films like Hustlers are so refreshing and show just how great a combination of cast and crew can come together and make something so effective. The story serves as an indictment to the financial crisis and how Ramona aptly states that America is a strip club; someone has the money and everyone else is dancing.