Hustlers, the new film starring Constance Wu and Jennifer Lopez, is the perfect antidote we need to cure the hangover from the glut of summer movies. It also works as a satisfying, sexy and entertaining palette cleanser before we are inundated with the deluge of prestige films that come with fall.
Based on a New York Magazine article by Jessica Pressler, Hustlers tells the story of Dorothy (Constance Wu), a down-on-her
-luck woman who turns to stripping to support her elderly grandmother. Shy and a bit stiff, Dorothy can’t quite get the cash flow she’d hoped working at a high-end strip club with its wolves-of-Wall-Street clientele. The demure Dorothy is soon drawn to the charming Ramona (Jennifer Lopez), the queen bee of the club who pulls in cash from vulgarians in designer suits with both hands.
It’s not long before Ramona takes Dorothy under her wing. Before she knows it, she’s living the suite life, dropping cash for designer bags and Escalades. But when the cash flow dries up soon after the financial crash of 2008, Dorothy finds herself drifting away from the club and Ramona. Hard up for money (again), Dorothy lands herself back at the club (again) and it’s not too long before she’s back under Ramona’s wing.
But this time, this Robin Hood and her band of merry strippers have a new con in their playbook: drugging Wall Street fat cats and fleecing them for whatever amount their corporate cards can be maxed out at. (Spoiler alert: it doesn’t last.)
While Hustlers may waffle a bit when it comes time for the fun to end, writer-director Lorene Scafaria and her cast acquit themselves admirably, delivering a thrilling and delightfully entertaining ride. Watching the film, the viewer gets the sense these performers must have had a lot of fun on set.
Wu plays the moral center of the crew with a shy humor, but it’s Lopez’s Ramona who steals the show. Lopez commands the screen with a charisma that has been underutilized far too often in romcom after romcom she’s been shoe-horned into. This "Jenny" is better when she’s putting a little bit of "the block" into the role of Ramona. It’s a showcase performance we’ll most certainly be talking about come awards time, and it’s well deserved.
Hustlers owes a heavy debt to another rollicking good crime film: Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas. Much will probably be said about this film’s homage to that classic and whether Scafaria and crew borrow too heavily, but who cares? The fact is, Scafaria, Lopez and Wu all pull it off with flying colors, taking the behind-the-curtain scintillation of mafioso excess and dressing it in 7-inch lucite platforms and a G-string while blasting Usher’s "Love in This Club" cranked up to 11.