Posted by

Allen Adams Allen Adams
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

edge staff writer


Don’t hustle these ‘Hustlers’

Rate this item
(5 votes)

Here’s a reminder for those of you who may have forgotten: Jennifer Lopez is legitimately good at everything. She is a talented pop singer, an excellent dancer and a gifted actress. She is a savvy businesswoman and a social media savant. She is smart as hell and still hungry after more than two decades in the spotlight.

She puts those skills on full display in her new film “Hustlers,” directed by Lorene Scafaria from a screenplay she adapted herself from a magazine article written by Jessica Pressler. It’s a movie that is equal parts heist story and female friendship narrative. Lopez unleashes the full force of her talents (not to mention her pure unbridled charisma), putting forward a performance that is nuanced and raw and serves as an absolutely magnetic foundation for what ultimately proves to be a damned good movie.

It’s an unapologetic look at what it takes to get ahead in a world where the deck is stacked against you, a story that refuses to condemn its characters for embracing the same tactics that the men of the world get rich employing. It’s a story about people who, instead of playing the hand that they were dealt, choose to change the rules to which they are expected to adhere.

In the mid-00s in New York City, Dorothy (Constance Wu, TV’s “Fresh Off the Boat”) is working as an exotic dancer under the stage name Destiny, just trying to get by. All she wants is to make a living and help support her grandmother (Wai Ching Ho, “High Resolution”), but she’s struggling – it seems as if everything about the club at which she works is designed to keep her from getting a leg up.

That all changes the night she meets Ramona (Jennifer Lopez, “Second Act”), an absolutely mesmeric performer who completely and utterly commands any room she enters. In an effort to figure out how to be better at the job – how to make more money – Destiny reaches out to Ramona, who takes Destiny under her wing.

The early days of the partnership are wildly lucrative – Wall Street is booming and every finance bro in the city is looking to show off his wealth. But when the mortgage bubble pops, those salad days are over – the high-rolling big spenders largely disappear.

But Ramona will not be denied. With Destiny and a couple of trusted dancer friends – Mercedes (Keke Palmer, TV’s “Star”) and Annabelle (Lili Reinhardt, TV’s “Riverdale”) – Ramona comes up with a plan. She and the others will cozy up to rich guys, get them wasted and talk them into going to the strip club with them so that they can steal their credit card numbers, run them up and share the bounty with the house.

Things get dicier when Ramona insists they start using a blend of ketamine and MDMA to both lower the inhibitions of the marks while also inducing memory loss. Ramona also expands their operation, bringing in some less reliable accomplices that wind up causing some problems and ultimately threaten to bring the whole thing tumbling down.

(The entire story is framed by an ongoing after-the-fact conversation between Destiny and a journalist named Elizabeth (Julia Stiles, TV’s “Riviera”), who is working on a magazine story about it all.)

I liked “Hustlers” when I walked out of the theater. I was astounded as always by Jennifer Lopez’s sheer presence and reminded of her talents as a film actor; I enjoyed Constance Wu’s performance as well. The whole thing felt slick and well-made. But it didn’t feel as impactful to me as it seemed to feel to others who had seen it.

But as I sat with it, I kept thinking about it. About what a movie like this says about Lopez as not just an actor, but as an entertainer. About what it says when a story that simply allows women to do the same things as men (and for many of the same reasons) comes off as bold. About what it says regarding the complexities and intricacies of friendship.

And now I like it even more. A LOT more.

J-Lo is an absolute force of nature in this film, unleashing every bit of her star wattage. She practically glows every moment she’s on screen, engulfing her co-stars in this maelstrom of charisma. But it’s not an overwhelming presence – it’s very much a “rising tide raises all boats” situation, with the rest of the ensemble riding high on the energy Lopez projects. Wu is a phenomenal talent who seems to slowly be gaining more and more opportunities to showcase her skills; this is a great role for her, one she inhabits with aplomb. To share that much screen time with J-Lo and hold your own is … impressive. Their chemistry is one of the absolute highlights. The rest of the ensemble is strong – Palmer and Reinhardt are very good, as is Stiles; there are some excellent cameos from notables like Cardi B and Lizzo. But the stars of the show are Lopez and Wu.

“Hustlers” is a film made by women about women – and it’s sad how relatively rarely we get that. Particularly when the result is this good. At its heart, it’s a heist movie, only with a buddy comedy sensibility, all of it powered by the pop culture dynamo that is J-Lo.

So yeah – hit the club and make it rain. You’ll be glad you did.

[5 out of 5]

Last modified on Wednesday, 18 September 2019 05:21


The Maine Edge. All rights reserved. Privacy policy. Terms & Conditions.

Website CMS and Development by Links Online Marketing, LLC, Bangor Maine