Hustlers (2019)

Hustlers (Official Film Poster).pngDirector: Lorene Scafaria
Running Time: 110 Minutes
Rating: 15
Starring: Constance Wu, Jennifer Lopez, Julia Stiles, Keke Palmer, Lili Reinhart, Lizzo, Cardi B, Mercedes Ruehl, Trace Lysette, Wai Ching Ho, Mette Towle, Madeline Brewer, Frank Whaley

A new worker at the strip club Moves, Dorothy (Constance Wu) finds herself taken under the wing of veteran worker Ramona (Jennifer Lopez). They find themselves riding high on the success, until the financial crisis brings it all tumbling down. While the employees struggle to make a living, their Wall Street clientele continue flaunting their wealth, which leads to the former strip club employees banding together, to turn the tables on their clients.

Based on Jessica Pressler's New York Magazine article, "The Hustlers at Scores", Lorene Scafaria tells a contemporary and socially relevant tale, in a very fun and gripping manner. With such exuberant direction, and Todd Banhazl's stunning cinematography, this tale has an utterly distinctive feel you won't find elsewhere among mainstream cinema. The inspiration of Martin Scorsese can be felt in Scafaria's work, channelled through visuals bursting with life. Think of The Wolf of Wall Street told through the energetic lens of Magic Mike, and you're there.

What helps make the picture work so very well is the solid character work. There's nobody simply taking part to get rich quick, each character has their own personal reasons which make them feel utterly real. Be it to support a family member, to make their personal dreams realised, or to simply survive, they each have their own agency, and completely understandable motivations. We believe in each of their interactions, as friendships are sold through the smallest of moments, delivered thanks to a talented cast.

Serving as the entry point for viewers, Constance Wu is compelling in the lead role. Her character of Destiny is shown the way into a better life, and becomes as enamoured in it as she is with Jennifer Lopez's Ramona. Their friendship is the backbone of the film, made all the more believable thanks to how utterly joyous it is to see the pair simply sharing the screen. But make no mistake, Lopez is more than just the lead character's friend. From her introductory scene, a perfect example of how very well the actor and the director can work in tandem, she commands the screen with a phenomenal performance. A special mention is deserved for Lili Reinhart, who is the basis for a hilarious running gag.

What's most integral, and very refreshing, is how the film treats these strip club employees. They're not painted as victims forced into this job, and the film thankfully doesn't grind to a halt, in order to wag fingers at the characters profession. Stripper work is treated like any other 9 to 5 job, where celebrations are made with cake, employees spread gossip, and things don't feel the same once those you loved working alongside have moved on.

Hustlers is a compelling real-life story, that elegantly balances social relevance with lovable friendships depicted by the talented cast.