Review - Hustlers
What if I told that Hustlers is a combination of The Wolf of Wall Street, Dancing at the Blue Iguana and The Big Short? Be sure to believe it.
Writer and director, Lorene Scafaria, has crafted a film that surpasses expectations by providing a crowd-pleasing crime drama with energy and pathos to its leads.
The film follows Destiny (Constance Wu), a stripper placed in New York, 2007. During her time as a sensual performer, she meets her much successful colleague, Ramona (Jennifer Lopez) becoming both her mentor and closest friend. Their lives change once the 2008 financial crisis happens, with a new business opportunity starting to appear in the aftermath of the Wall Street meltdown.
The duo nos bring a group of strippers to attract rich men (mostly stockbrokers), get them drugged and use the maximum capacity of their company cards. Their motive is for some to make their own personal justice to the men who broke the economy and bring stability to their own lives.
The plot is been told from flashbacks from the point of view of Ramona during an interview with a reporter, self-called Elizabeth (Julia Stiles), based heavily on the investigation of the real-life journalist, Jessica Pressler, for her New York Magazine article, which the film is based on.
The film goes through the exploration of the lives and obstacles of sex workers in the US, either from the inner works of the strip clubs (by the owners, bouncers and the customers themselves) to the exterior forces of a world surrounded by money used towards hard-working women.
But also, like Martin Scorsese's unofficial money trilogy (Goodfellas, Casino, and The Wolf of Wall Street), Hustlers explores the themes of greed, success, and power. Even though the leads have understandable motives and means to what they do, as they identify themselves to modern age Robin Hoods (by keeping the stolen goods for themselves), they get absorbed in vanity and cross lines that would dim their futures.
The prototype of the antihero used in the modern age, especially during an event such the financial bubble, brings a strong familiarity to the people who lived (and probably affected) during the time which brings a stronger argument to understand and admire the actions of the leads. But the film still does not justify their actions, especially with the inclusion of an objective opinion of Elizabeth, making a not clear black and white opinion of the characters and the people they targeted.
Hustlers' heart, though, lies in the relationship between Destiny and Ramona. The importance of feeling belonging to someone who could be considered family. Proven by the fact that all the women call each other sisters, having celebratory dinners and Christmas gatherings where they exchange gifts.
Both Destiny and Ramona are ruling presences to the screen, endearing enough to be sympathetic, but complex enough to criticize them. Their friendship is the cornerstone to everything that happens, through their dependency on each other.
Constance Wu flies with high colors, with a strong leading performance that starts vulnerable and unsure, to confident and driven. The biggest surprise comes from Jennifer Lopez, having a strong carrier performance as the leader of the gang, showcasing her intimate side, sensuality and threatening persona.
The filmmaking aspect is another praise to Scafaria, as she uses various different techniques to save the story. Playing with sounds and visual aids helped create both fantastical and realistic environments, reminding us this is based on real events, but also a piece of entertainment.
Hustlers is the biggest surprise for me, of the year so far. Even though the promotional material presented a joyful popcorn flick, it ended up being something more profound and interesting to the current age.
Strong performances, a smart script and great filmmaking, this is something to be seen by every fan of complex crime dramas.
Even if the award season has technically just started, a lot of chatter has begun for Lopez to get a nomination. If she does get nominated, then I will be one of her biggest supporters.
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