Hustlers (2019) Movie Review
Fair warning which may delve into minor spoiler territory.
Just tell us!!!
Those of you expecting the Constance Wu/Jennifer Lopez stripper drama to be wall to wall G-strings and T and A will be sorely disappointed.
I am sorely disappointed. I expected so many G-strings. Like, 11 of them.
What you do get is a compelling enough drama/thriller/procedural with a strong but complicated female friendship at its core.
Did you say, “complicated female friendship at its core”?
I did say that…
Well, I’m hooked.
Though I did not do a Joe Bob Briggs-style exploitation count, there are moments, for those of you that are interested, where you can pause the videotape after you rent this from your local family run video store. I’m not saying you’re that shallow.
I don’t care about that anyway. I want to see a relationship drama that’s mostly female-centric. Does this movie pass the Bechdel test?
It actually does.
I just reserved my tickets using the computer that’s in my phone.
You could have just said phone, but I think you’ll mostly enjoy this movie as your other alternatives are seeing It Chapter 2 for the 7th time or that awful and obvious piece of Oscar bait The Goldfinch.
I don’t want to see The Goldfinch.
Nobody wants to see The Goldfinch. Just lie and say you saw it just like you lied and said you read the book.
Hustlers opens in 2007. I know it was only 12 years ago, and I don’t really remember much but apparently they played a lot of Chingy.
You may now take the time to look up Chingy with the computer on your phone.
We meet a young dancer by the name of Dorothy (Crazy Rich Asians’ Constance “Don’t call me John” Wu). Her stage name is Destiny. She’s been around the block as a dancer a few times, but she’s the new girl at this club.
She’s getting bullied out of tips by the veterans hungry for dollars. It’s a rough first night, but it’ll get better.
Ramona notices the new girl, sizes her up, offers her a smoke and the use of her fur coat. Destiny tells her troubles. She needs money not only for herself, but because she’s taking care of her grandmother.
Ramona senses a kindred spirit. More importantly she smells an opportunity to make more money. Rich, white Wall Street types love Asian girls (at least that’s what the movie says. Though I’m Asian and my sister married a rich white Wall Street type but that’s probably a coincidence).
Ramona suggests she and Destiny partner up. But first Destiny needs to learn, really learn how to dance. This upcoming montage shows that Jennifer Lopez knows how to dance. In case you weren’t aware of that.
Destiny needs to suggest sexuality without being explicitly sexual. This upcoming montage shows Destiny being Jedi-trained by pole vets. “Drain the clock, without draining the…” word that rhymes with “clock”, as said by a stripper played by former stripper turned Grammy-winning rapper Cardi B.
Destiny is a quick study and Dorothy knows she’s no longer in Kansas. She and Ramona are making money hand over fist. The rain of money will never end!
Until the crash of 2008 happens and the well runs dry. Very dry.
The Wall Street fat cats are now jobless, homeless, and shoeless skinny cats. Strip clubs are empty because everyone is broke. Those that still dance do illicit favors for the customers in order to make ends meet.
Even Ramona is forced to work retail.
And now Destiny has a child to take care of.
A chance encounter between Ramona and Destiny allow the 2 to catch up. Seeing Destiny again sparks something in Ramona. They may not be able to dance and make money, but there may be a way to still exploit the wolves of Wall Street for more monetary gain.
Destiny is down, but wary.
Ramona knows it may not be technically legal, but neither is how Wall Street bigwigs defrauded the country.
Once a hustler, always a hustler.
What Works With Hustlers
- Jennifer Lopez’ best performance in years. Between hosting singing shows and hosting dancing shows, it’s been since Out of Sight since you saw Fer-Lop be this electrifying onscreen. You never really know where she’s coming from until the very end, and the time in-between you grow to love and hate Ramona.
- The second best onscreen friendship of the year belongs to Destiny and Ramona. Cliff and Rick’s in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is more benign and interdependent in nature, but the extremes to which Destiny and Ramona go through make theirs a little more believable. Granted, OUATIH was a bit of a fairy tale. It makes the more predictable parts of Hustlers easier to bear.
- Lili Reinhart’s gag reflex is a running, um, gag that’s funnier that it has any right to be. Riverdale was never this racy.
What Doesn't Work With Hustlers
- As indicated above, the second and third acts of Hustlers are more predictable as writer/director Lorene Scafaria’s (Seeking A Friend for the End of the World) script dips into cliché more than it should compared to the fizz-poppy first act. The results are more than a little draggy, but you’re so invested in the characters that it’s mostly forgiven.
- Julia Stiles is wasted as a generic newspaper reporter character. It’s always nice to see Julia Stiles onscreen. Just give her something to do.
Come for the stripping. Stay for the story. Really. It’s a good story. I’ll bet you an oily dollar bill. At least I hope that’s oil.