“Hustlers” has been recognized as one of the most anticipated movies of the year, and for good reason. Directed by Lorene Scafaria, the film has all the elements of what people would consider to be intriguing in 2019—a dynamic all-female cast, the effortless mixture of comedy and drama, nostalgic moments and a sensational soundtrack that takes control of the entire production.
The film is a true story based around Jessica Pressler’s New York Times article “The Hustlers at Scores,” which depicts the narrative of several strippers in New York City who greatly benefit from Wall Street in the early 2000s and have to figure out a way to stay afloat after the devastation of the 2008 recession. From the 2000s fashion of chain belts and UGG boots down to the early versions of the iPhone, the film is truly of its era. However, the telling of how 2008 affected the club scene is the most compelling part—shining a light on occupations that aren’t as represented in the media.
The movie begins in 2007 when Destiny, played by Constance Wu, starts working at the Manhattan club Moves in order to provide for herself and her grandmother. Destiny seeks mentorship from the experienced dancer Ramona, played by Jennifer Lopez, and the two instantly develop a friendship as they try to strategically obtain more money from the Wall Street men.
“Hustlers” is mostly narrated by Destiny—as the scenes go back and forth from her being interviewed in 2014 to the actual events that took place. As things were going immensely well for all the dancers, 2008 suddenly flips their financial situation upside down. After being absent from the stripping scene due to having her daughter, Destiny returns in 2011 and reunites with Ramona—desperately searching for ways to save themselves from the tanking business.
Ramona and Destiny join Mercedes (Keke Palmer) and Annabelle (Lili Reinhart) as they successfully lure rich men into the club and all get a cut of their excessive spending. Going even further, Ramona sets her sights on spiking the men’s drinks with a hint of MDMA in order to significantly max out their accounts—the ultimate extreme.
One of the most appealing aspects of the film was the camaraderie between Lopez and Wu along with the younger stars Palmer and Reinhart. Their chemistry was effortless and definitely made their formed family convincing. The big screen arrivals of Cardi B and Lizzo was fun to see as both women are arguably the biggest stars of now—which is even more of a reason to check the film out.
Other than the connection between the actresses and the inclusivity of the story itself, the true highlight of the film lies in the soundtrack. The film kicks off with “Control” by Janet Jackson—serving as the ultimate feminist anthem. According to an interview with Scafaria, the track was so essential to the opening scene that she didn’t know if it would have worked had Jackson not approved of its use. Cool tracks like Lorde’s “Royals” were also used—a seemingly odd, but perfect track for the scene it accompanies.
Our introduction to Lopez’s character is spearheaded by an incredible routine set to Fiona Apple’s “Criminal”—perfectly demonstrating Ramona’s influence in the film’s events. It wouldn’t be a film about strippers in 2007 without Britney Spears’ “Gimme More”—making it difficult for audience members to not get lost in the club classic’s alluring trance. Other songs of the time like Flo Rida’s “Club Can’t Handle Me” and Usher’s “Love In This Club” fit perfectly in the mix and add an extra layer to the film’s magnetism.
“Hustlers” has aspects of it that are thrilling in the beginning, but becomes somewhat repetitive in the middle as the dancers cash in on their schemes. Even though Ramona’s first routine was a breakthrough for the movie’s excitement, it would’ve been interesting to highlight more of the professional dancers’ athleticism because their training should be more appreciated—the physical aspect of the job is not easy in the slightest.
Even though there were a few lagging parts in the film, the overall execution was focused and intentional. In addition to the fascinating storyline and the implementation of historical events, the irresistible cast and amazing music helped the movie in so many ways. “Hustlers” is an enjoyable film for the pop culture obsessed—definitely deserving of its overwhelming attention.
Rylee Jackson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @rybyjackson.