'Hustlers' Is Tons of Fun, But a Little Morally Suspect Directed by Lorene Scafaria
Starring Jennifer Lopez, Constance Wu, Julia Stiles, Lizzo, Cardi B
Published Sep 07, 2019Beneath the theatrics and humour, there's a lot to think about with Hustlers. Based on Jessica Pressler's 2015 New York Magazine article about a group of strippers who drugged and stole from wealthy clients, Lorene Scafaria's big-screen adaptation offers a thought-provoking exploration on the heroes and villains of today's middle class-crushing, capitalist society — are the stripper protagonists noble for taking from the rich to aid the marginalized (i.e., themselves), or does their penchant for drugging and stealing preclude them from redemption?
No matter your answer, it's undeniable that Hustlers is a lot of fun. Starring Constance Wu and Jennifer Lopez as the key duo of lingerie-clad Robin Hoods, their palpable on-screen chemistry and strong individual performances anchor the film through its unbelievable escapades. Early cameos by Cardi B and Lizzo — essentially playing themselves — only serve to strengthen the jubilant mood. The film is plenty empowering, too: An early scene where J-Lo's den mother Ramona teaches Wu's newbie Destiny about the ins and outs of the pole serves to endear and uplift.
But its pacing is uneven, taking its time introducing the facets of Destiny's world as the film moves toward its finale with a series of increasingly baffling twists and turns with less and less time to process them. While the film dabbles in questions about the morality of the characters' schemes, it puts them on the backburner in favour of antics, nullifying the impact of the questions it posits.
Scafaria's script sticks super closely to Pressler's original article, which serves to hamper both content and form. Any flaws one might find with the article, such as its limited perspective, occasional lack of critical insight and penchant for abruptly dropping and picking up threads, are amplified by the film's identical structure.
Though it asks important questions without necessarily waiting for the answers, Hustlers is still plenty entertaining and uplifting, with strong performances from its stars.