Review: Hustlers

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Title: Hustlers
MPAA Rating: R
Director: Lorene Scafaria
Starring: Constance Wu, Jennifer Lopez, Julia Stiles
Runtime: 1 hour 50 minutes

What It Is: A movie based on the true story of a group of strippers, who hit by the financial downturn and its effect on their clientele, concoct a way to extort the money by drugging the men who think little of them other than objects they purchase.

What We Think: Walking out of the theatre after watching Hustlers I overheard a male say in exasperation, “There wasn’t a lot of naked in a movie that’s supposed to be about strippers. I want to believe the smirk on his female companion’s face was one of the inherent solidarity women felt leaving the based on a true story drama.

There was nudity, it is a film based on a sex industry after all, but the nudity was done in a way that belies the cheap tactics of pre-Weinstein (Please read Salma Hayek’s interview regarding Weinstein’s demands on Frida if you can’t understand this reference.) The nudity is not just a way to maintain eye contact, but it’s almost another layer in the film’s description of how the male characters are victims of their own vices.

But even more, depth is given to the story in its hesitation to paint any of the female characters on either side of the acceptable patriarchal spectrum. Destiny’s (Constance Wu’) life is hard but not tough enough to be painted as desperate. Ramona (Jennifer Lopez) doesn’t defuse her plan from anger or revenge, but simply understanding that it could be done, and done rather easily on the men’s egos.

The movie evokes women in the film, actual women speaking in a way that actual women speak when we are comfortable enough with our audience. Even the simplification of New York Magazine reporter Elizabeth (Julia Stiles) response “If you think I feel sorry for these guys, I just want you to know, I don’t. I don’t feel sorry for them.” Is in line with the theme. A theme that plainly states it is not a film meant to stroke the male ego, or have them avoid what is a story that is not shocking to hear is true to most women.

Even my one issue speaks to the profound voice heard when groups are allowed to create films in their own ideas. For while Jennifer Lopez’s Ramona was a strong presence on the screen, I longed for more of a kick. It’s hard to know if her warm actions were that of the director keeping the film within the confines of shock, or if Lopez herself chose to play a more likable female character, but the idea of Ramona herself seemed in need of more bite. I almost felt as if Lopez was struggling to stand out rather than understanding that her presence itself would have completed that.

Our Grade: A-, The distinction of perception is hard to see unless you are one of the many groups that have not been privy to the status of Writer/ Director/ Producer of a mass released film, but it exists, and in a way that defines Hustlers. I longed for more grit in the way that male-driven films are given, but in holding back director Lorene Scafaria blurs the lines of morality and creates almost a perfect example of how different films can be when told from the perception of the people represented.

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