The new movie, “Hustlers” is a lot of fun.
Despite its sex worker setting, this film turns out to be a female empowerment story where the ladies finally get to exploit the men who have been exploiting them for years. Granted, what they’re doing in the movie is illegal and immoral, but they’re sticking it to Wall Street jerks, so it’s easy to cheer on these scantily-clad anti-heroines.
Based on an eye-opening New York Magazine article, “Hustlers” tells the Hollywood-true story of a group of Manhattan strippers who were drugging the wealthy men at their strip club and getting them to rack up huge credit card bills that they were too inebriated to notice. The women justified their actions by claiming that, in the wake of the 2008 Recession, they were only stealing from men who stole from America. I’m not sure that I buy this premise, but there’s no denying that it’s easy to shunt moral qualms to the side and simply fall in love with the film’s sexy, Robin Hood-ish story.
It’s also easy to love the cast of this movie. Jennifer Lopez stars in what might be her best performance ever. She’s a magnetic force of nature who absolutely dominates the screen. That’s no small feat as she’s working with Constance Wu, who also turns in a solid performance, as well as powerhouses like Julia Stiles, Keke Palmer and none other than Cardi B and Lizzo. That’s an amazing cast, and while there’s not enough time to allow them all to shine equally, they are each given some memorable moments that should please their fan bases.
The other woman who must be discussed is director Lorene Scafaria. I don’t think this movie would have worked if it had a male director at the helm. There’s a refreshing female gaze on these sex workers, one that is frequently judgement free and one that revels in the camaraderie between these characters.
That’s not typical for any movie about strippers, even when they are played by glamorous movie stars. Most of the time I would expect to leave the theater feeling a bit icky from the camera leering at all the half-naked women in the movie. This one doesn’t flinch from the scene, but neither does it turn the players into one-note caricatures.
Between that girl-power vibe, the superb performances and the kicky, crime caper plot, it’s no wonder that “Hustlers” is generating so much buzz. I’ll stop just short of calling it one of my favorite movies of the year, but I absolutely had a blast watch the film. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Lopez garner some award notices in a few months. Neither would I be surprised to find audiences rushing out to the theater to kick it with these crowd-pleasing “Hustlers.”