Hustlers Film Review – Female empowerment hits the limelight
Female solidarity reigns richer than the pockets of the Wall Street tycoons in this dazzling Crime-drama, following a group of strippers that try to turn the tables in a male-dominated world.
Drenched in neon hues and balmy blue and pink tones, Hustlers is a film that belongs to the strength of women; from Jennifer Lopez’s astonishing core-defying pole-dancing moves as dancer Ramona, to Destiny’s (Constance Wu) meticulous seduction of wealthy CEO’s and stock traders.
Based on a 2015 New York Magazine article by Jessica Pressler, the film follows a group of strippers through their lawless pursuits in manipulating and ultimately drugging unsuspecting Wall Street banker’s, running their American Expresses dry by the end of the night. The film never shies away from highlighting the dangers of the journey that the girls decide to embark on. The glamorous decadence of unwrapping new Louboutin’s and purchasing handbags is frequently paralleled with uncomfortable moments of misogynistic behaviour from the men in the strip club, meaning their rags to riches transformation is always tinged with a violent sense of reality.
Lopez and Wu form an extremely powerful bond onscreen as the ring-leaders of the group from the beginning of the film, demonstrated in their first encounter together as newbie Destiny watches Ramona’s hypnotic performance on stage to Fiona Apple’s ‘Criminal’ with a childlike awe. As J-Lo drips in glitter and a multitude of dollar notes (I mean, it’s J-Lo), it’s the first time in a long while that pole dancing has been depicted onscreen as not just sexual but also an acrobatic art form that encompasses the film’s message regarding female empowerment. It’s an unforgettable first entrance from J-Lo, radiating a magnetism and visual intensity that cements her control throughout the film and paves the way for the intoxicating dance scenes.
After the performance, both dancers share a touching moment over a cigarette on the rooftop of the club with Ramona wrapping her giant fur coat round Destiny. It’s an intimate moment that exudes Lopez’s maternal warmth over her newly found protégé. Moments like these contribute to what is being deemed J-Lo’s best acting performance to date, even sparking rumours over a potential Oscar nomination.
Written and directed by female director Lorene Scafaria, the film also boasts a late 1990’s R&B and pop infused soundtrack including Janet Jackson, Fiona Apple, Britney Spears and Lorde. These tracks expertly infuse montages of the group’s scheming throughout the film, often marking their slow-motion entrances through the bar to meet the stunned business moguls. The film leaves you with questions surrounding morality. I was undoubtedly rooting for these girls as they slink through the bars and strip club, performing their expertly choreographed scheme with a captivating glamour.
As the film progresses, it’s clear the greed and sleaziness of the Wall Street tycoons becomes a wider critique on capitalism post 2008 recession. It’s therefore easy not to sympathise with the trickling bank accounts of the group’s targets, with Ramona stating that “This whole country’s a strip club. You have people tossing the money and people doing the dance”.
Hustlers is a dazzling, powerful and rightly unapologetic film on the importance of female solidarity. Lorene Scafaria creates not only a visual feast but also shows the complexities of the political dynamics in a strip club, finally granting the recognition the industry deserves onscreen as a workplace like any other.
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