Dear Jennifer Lopez aka JLo aka Jenny from the Block,
Please forgive me my past trespasses of maybe thinking you could not possibly foray from a “Fly Girl’ into a music career, into a film career – minus ‘Selena’ of course. Forgive me for ever doubting that “HUSTLERS” would be my favourite movie that I’ve seen in 2019 so far. Forgive me for almost just wanting to skip out on my media screening and thinking, ‘nah this can’t be good’. Forgive me for having a little scoff when I read on the day of my screening a TIFF headline that stated this might be a Oscar nominating performance from you. And please, most of all, forgive me for EVER thinking you might not possibly be able to pull this off with the cast you helped enlist.
“HUSTLERS” starts us off in 2007 where newcomer stripper Destiny (Constance Wu) is taken under the wing of veteran stripper/popular attraction Ramona (Jennifer Lopez). Ramona teaches Destiny several pole dancing and erotic dancing, along with introducing her to fellow strippers and how to get the most out of the Wall Street types who frequent the club. Destiny not only starts to rake in a lot of money, but she uses her new fortunes to care for her grandmother (Wai Chin Ho) and newborn daughter. We have some major fun times here in the first half with Diamond (Cardi B) and Liz (Lizzo) giving us some backstage stripper dressing room fun. But dramatically overnight, things come to an abrupt halt at the start of the recession.
Years of the recession cause fewer people coming to the club and puts Destiny out of work. It doesn’t help that her background gives her little chance for other work. She eventually comes across Ramona again where they blame the recession on the same Wall Street guys. To retaliate and to generate an income, they agree to bring in other strippers including Annabelle (Lili Reinhart) and Mercedes (Keke Palmer) to take advantage of them and lure them into the clubs, drug them ever so slightly and take everything on their credit cards. All of this becomes chronicled by writer/reporter Elizabeth (Julia Stiles) as yes, this is a true story.
It may be easy to see Hustlers as something as exploitative as Showgirls. But to tell you the truth, I see it more like a cross of Boogie Nights and The Sting, and I ended up loving the movie so much more then I anticipated. I can call it one of the best of 2019, and as of right this moment, my favourite movie of the year so far, as it has so many elements that are phenomenal. Speaking of which, I’ll start by saying that Jennifer Lopez not only shines, but also gives what may be her best performance in a years. She paints a reflection of her eternal youth within a character who’s the prime example of “looks can be deceiving”. To put it best, Jenny from the Block is kicking ass and taking names. She is up there with 20 & 30 year old women, and you would not be able to tell the difference in their ages standing side by side. She is flawless here.
Constance Wu has two goals in this movie; to be the innocent on whose life we are filled in on the and gives us the stories narrative movie’s and to someone the audience can imagine themselves as being in the same position. Hustlers uses this narrative to make their characters interestingly sympathetic, especially the lengths they go to accomplish their goals. Of course like a lot of crime stories, it all has to topple at some point and the movie has that…though it takes some time to get there, you are held in by not only a good story line, but a soundtrack that is phenomenal as well.
The first half might be more fun and exciting than the second.. but it’s in the second half where we see the true story coming to fruition and the con that’s set up, while a good one, the pacing of it causes things to slow down some. A lot of it is because much of the scenes repeat the con over and over. I know it’s to show how much it works, but the movie also has a lot of slow motion edits which heighten moments at the strip club, but can come off as unnecessary during the con. If anything, the best moments from the second half are when the girls get together laugh about what happened and thus, seeing them connect.
I’ll give this nine stripper poles out of ten. Hustlers is a movie that will not only make you laugh more than you thought, but it’s well acted and well written – and is probably going to do some good box-office business and have its eye on certain awards. It’s too early to determine any guarantees, but I’ll remember this; especially for Jennifer Lopez. I do highly recommend it in general as it’s a tantalizing a good watch.
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Media Screening: Wednesday, September 11, 2019 ~ Courtesy of STX Films
‘HUSTLERS’ IS OUT IN THEATERS NATIONWIDE & U.K ON FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 13, 2019 // WORLDWIDE RELEASE FOLLOWING.