Drugging Wall Street men with a mix of MDMA and ketamine and making them max out their credit cards on booze in strip clubs? It may sound crazy — it sure sounded that way to the cops — but it is actually a true story that has now inspired a major motion picture.
“Hustlers,” written and directed by Lorene Scarfaria, is a story drawn straight from a New York Magazine article published in 2015. The film follows a group of strippers who scheme Wall Street men out of their money after the financial crisis of 2008.
It is clear that the movie was written, directed and produced by women, just from the unique way it treats the women on screen and gives precedence to them. This film treats its female main subjects with dignity and respect. To see sex workers portrayed in a way that emphasizes that they are real people with lives outside of what they do is so refreshing and important. So often women in sex work are shown in a negative light, but here they are given the respect they deserve, and their stories are given priority over those of the men who surround them.
“Hustlers” proves that this is Jennifer Lopez’s world and we are all just living in it. This film finally gives her the chance to show off her acting skills in a dramatic role, and she holds nothing back. As Ramona, Lopez delivers a dynamic performance that allows the audience to connect with her on all levels. As the mastermind of the group, Lopez is so enthralling that neither her team nor the audience ever questions her bold plans. This film allows J-Lo to show off all her talents, and she does not disappoint for a second.
Constance Wu also gives a powerful performance as Dorothy/Destiny. She plays the highs and lows of the character with ease and does a fantastic job making the audience understand her decisions. The supporting characters do an outstanding job with the material they are given. While they don’t get to go as deep as Wu and Lopez do emotionally, they add humor and heart to the film, and all give exceptional performances.
The film has many strengths, but the one issue that stands out is the pacing and build. “Hustlers” is enjoyable and will draw an audience in and keep them interested, but the climax and sudden falling action happen way too quick. It is nice to spend time with the characters and smile at the sisterhood these women have formed, but the whole fall-out of the plan was a bit rushed and did a disservice to the buildup. It is well-written, and the scenes are intense and emotional, but it leaves the audience wanting to see more of that since the buildup was so massive throughout.
“Hustlers” is a more-than-suitable addition to Hollywood’s growing collection of powerful sisterhood movies. This film is a fantastic example of what women’s stories in film look like when actual women tell them and give their voices to them. Scarfaria has done a tremendous job blending multiple themes and tones into the film to ultimately create the female-empowered crime drama everyone has been looking for.
A version of this article appears in the Monday, Sept. 16, 2019 print edition. Email Kaylee DeFreitas at [email protected]