The Long Plot, Sans Spoilers
Destiny (Constance Wu) is a down-on-her-luck stripper struggling to make ends meet. On her first day working at yet another strip joint, she encounters Ramona Vega (Jennifer Lopez), the club's superstar talent whose pole dancing routines leave the audience panting for more. Ramona decides to take Destiny under her, uh, fur coat, and teaches the newbie some slick moves on and off the pole. When the 2008 recession hits and the club is at a loss, they take matters into their own hands and come up with an elaborate scheme to drug and steal from their rich clients (CEOs, stockbrokers, and the like) and give to the poor (their broke-ass selves). The striperiffic duo, with the help of their colleagues Mercedes (Keke Palmer) and Annabelle (Lili Reinhart), carry out the task of conning these entitled execs out of their ill-gotten wealth. But how long will it take before they get caught in the act?
The Short, Honest Plot
It's a heist film but make it fashion and feminist. Alternatively, it's also Jennifer Lopez's new music video!
The Actors And Where You Last Saw Them
Jennifer Lopez as Ramona Vega
JLo is the epitome of a timeless multi-awarded and multi-hyphenate artist, releasing countless hit records and blockbuster movies. She recently killed the runway wearing an updated version of her iconic green Versace dress, which she originally wore back in 2000! (Your faves could never!)
Constance Wu as Dorothy/Destiny
She first became known as Jessica Huang in Fresh Off The Boat but it was her role as Rachel Chu in Crazy Rich Asians that elevated her to superstardom. She will be reprising her role in the CRA sequel.
Julia Stiles as Elizabeth
'90s kids fondly remember her as Kat Stratford, the quintessential alt woke teen in 10 Things I Hate About You.
Keke Palmer as Mercedes
Our girl killed it as Zayday Williams in the campy slasher series, Scream Queens.
Lili Reinhart as Annabelle
You may know this actress best for playing Betty Cooper in the CW series, Riverdale.
Lizzo as Liz
This is Lizzo's first live-action film appearance as she previously voiced an animated character in UglyDolls. The song that put her on the map, "Truth Hurts," became the post-breakup anthem.
Cardi B as Diamond
She's known for the veritable bop, "Bodak Yellow," and showed off her gift of gab when she co-hosted The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.
Trace Lysette as Tracey
The actress was in the dramedy series Transparent and did a guest stint on Pose.
Madeline Brewer as Dawn
Blessed be the fruit! You might recognize her as Janine from The Handmaid's Tale series adaptation.
Did You Know?
1. The movie was inspired by a 2015 article that Jessica Pressler wrote, entitled The Hustlers at Scores, for New York Magazine's The Cut. She interviewed Roselyn "Rosie" Keo and Samantha Barbash, who were the ringleaders of a major con where strippers drugged and robbed businessmen.
3. Cardi B used to work as a stripper and made the news rounds when she admitted to drugging men in order to steal their money—similar to the plot of the film.
4. Hustlers was banned in Malaysia due to its racy scenes!
5. Martin Scorsese was asked to direct Hustlers but passed on the project. This makes a lot of sense since the script's progression is reminiscent of the director's famous mafia film, Goodfellas.
What My Friend Thinks:
"Hustlers is easily Jennifer Lopez's strongest performance of her career. The nomination buzz surrounding her role has merit. Of course, the rest of the cast brings their A-game as well, led by Constance Wu, who just wanted bigger and better things in her life and for her loved ones. (Don't we all?) In this dog-eat-dog world, it's either you're doing the hustle or you're the one being hustled. The movie will keep you engaged, not only because of JLo's sizzling solo routine (no body doubles!) but because it's also a story of friendship. This is a must-watch with your crew, especially if you're a big JLo fan!" —Ica Cheng
What I Think:
Hustlers celebrates collaborative and emotionally supportive female friendships, while also encouraging women to reclaim their sexuality as they claw out the male gaze with fabulously manicured nails.
The film flips the script by depicting the sex industry in a more sympathetic light, objectively appreciating the female form rather than being objectified by leering men. As we first see Ramona (Jennifer Lopez) through the eyes of Destiny (Constance Wu), the perspective focuses on admiring the sheer physicality and raw sexuality from JLo in her poledancing performance. Of course it helps to have writer, co-producer, and director Lorene Scafaria at the helm, ensuring that the club dancers/fellow women are fairly portrayed in the film. You can also thank pole dance choreographer Johanna Sapakie for those sickening moves that have effectively convinced me to take up classes.
It was refreshing to see that a "straight male" past time, such as going to a strip club, can be a venue for female-centric dialogue and character development. The patrons and male lovers are relegated to bit roles as they aren't essential to the plot—a situation most familiar with ladies starring in dude films. (Now you know how it feels!) Men who might complain about the "lack of male representation" can stop whining and, instead, look to the countless mainstream films catered to them.
I was in awe at the amount of diversity shown in the film with only one white chick being part of the main cast. (I personally wanted to see more of Lizzo, though.) While I stan every woman in that movie, even the ones who put the "pro" in problematic and especially Constance Wu's nuanced acting, Jennifer Lopez definitely was in a league of her own. This is JLo's world tour and everyone else is her backup dancer.
I was already in my late teens from 2007 to 2008—when most of the plot takes place—and so I was immediately hooked in the era. The attention to detail was astounding. I felt a mixture of warm familiarity and personal cringe as they showed the fashion crazes of the mid-2000s: bedazzling, Bebe tops, low-rise jeans, and of course, the celeb staple at the time, Ugg boots. Hustlers even used the soundtrack as a narrative device, providing audio cues to fully immerse you in the era starting with songs like Britney Spears' "Gimme More" and Sean Kingston's "Beautiful Girls." The tracks accurately reflect the passage of time with Rihanna's "Birthday Cake" and Lorde's "Royals" eventually being heard in the background. A certain R&B artist also made a cameo appearance, swaggering into the club like a G as his music started playing. Needless to say, the entire soundtrack slapped, although I may be low-key biased as these songs reminded me of peak partying years and questionable dating decisions.
Perhaps the missed opportunity in this film would be shedding light on the injustices and abuse suffered by workers in the sex industry. Since they were taking a lot of creative liberties with the narrative, it would have been an interesting contrast and an issue more specific to sex workers (aside from general poverty) in order to truly reflect the times.
Hustlers is really about the love story between Constance and JLo's characters and how their fire-forged friendship gets them through tough situations. As soon as Ramona and Destiny's ironed-out plans started to wrinkle though, I already resigned myself to seeing the "women can't get along" trope in action. To my relief, there was no cattiness nor obvious villainess that was revealed. Honest mistakes were made in the film but nobody was really out for blood to take down their colleague. However, it made me realize that I have always been conditioned to believe, as informed by society and media, that strong opinionated women are competitive with each other and fight over everything. Strong women have always been dismissed as "bitches" when they are just as outspoken as men. The real pressing issue is the utter lack of opportunities for women in the workplace and how limiting these roles forces us to fight over the scraps. Once we are liberated from this idea, we can work together and demand more opportunities and space for our sisters.
But if you really had to choose an antagonist, it would be the Wall Street meatheads treating everyone like crap and I felt no sympathy for them. These strippers weaponized their physical appeal and emotional capabilities and used these very things, that men usually take advantage of, against them. So it's funny that some sexist comments about female-led caper films state that emotions will get in the way of a criminal heist. In fact, it's that very empathy that will strengthen the trust among the members and boost morale. You could see with the way Ramona and Destiny handled their crew as they give personal gifts and throw parties.
Hustlers is a manic, iconic, neon-hued binge that gave me a strong "women-supporting-women" hangover and I am so here for it! I wouldn't condone criminal activity but the movie is basically a highlight reel of a woman's revolutionary capabilities once she shakes off negative stereotypes of female friendships, forming an unstoppable super girl group. The possibilities are endless once we channel our energy toward instead of against each other. After watching this film, I wanted to hug my girls, provide mushy words of encouragement usually reserved for a piss-drunk session, drag them out to the club, and take down the patriarchy all in one night. The future is female!
I'd Recommend It To:
- Anyone who has ever been so done with privileged straight male B.S.
- Men and women who appreciate the female form sans the degrading treatment seen in films pandering to men.
- Problematic men who need to do BETTER. They will be lured at first by the sexy, but will have a very rude awakening upon seeing rich pricks getting screwed over—and not the fun kind. (Cautionary tale, y'all!)
- Yuppies who feel dead on the inside while working nine-to-five. Their struggles are a real big mood!
- CGs who are single and self-sufficient!
- Ladies who feel conscious about their age, have given up on working out and are in dire need of motivation. (If JLo can rock a hot routine in her 50s, then you can get your butt to the gym, sis.)
- Poledancing enthusiasts looking to pick up a few new moves that they can incorporate into their routine.
- Nostalgic millennials who can still recall with vivid detail the mid-2000's heyday of bedazzled blouses, flat-ironed hair, and midriff tops.
- A sister squad looking for the ultimate girl power movie.
- Music lovers who stan kweens like JLo, Cardi B, and Lizzo.
- Moviegoers who loved the Asian representation in Crazy Rich Asians. They will be serving snaps upon seeing the diversity in this movie.
- Viewers who enjoy heist films, crime thrillers, and cons.
- General fans of Martin Scorsese films.
- People who are attracted to this fine, fierce, feminine energy.
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