The infamous market crash of 2008 effected numerous jobs, companies, and families across the board. It is often compared to a modern day version of the Great Depression. The crash caused a worldwide recession. While the crash was short-lived, its effects were anything but. Numerous companies felt its impact long after the conclusion. The crash has become the subject of many books and films since. While the majority of the crash is normally associated with Wall Street and higher end companies, a 2015 article from Jessica Pressler decided to direct its attention elsewhere: exotic dancers. It’s almost been engrained into our medium, if you work hard, you need to play just as hard. It has been depicted in several films and television shows including The Wolf of Wall Street, Wall Street and even to a lesser exact Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. “All work and no play make Jack a dull boy.” That’s usually where things like strippers and drugs come in.
In 2008, when the market crashed, businesses everywhere felt that impact. Though, some of the wealthy didn’t feel the weight of that recession as much as others and little to nothing changed. Which kept the lights on for bars and strip clubs alike. Sometimes desperation breeds stories so bizarre, you can’t help but gravitate towards them. Such is the story that inspired the film, Hustlers. On the surface, the film tells the true story of exotic dancers who developed a process for robbing wall street guys. Though, within the confides of the film, it is so much deeper than that. Largely coming from the film’s script from director, Lorene Scafaria. Scafaria creates a world which completely humanizes every one of its core characters while also managing to deliver a backstory for even its minor players.
Largely at its’ core, the film focuses on the relationship between Destiny (Constantce Wu) & Romana (Jennifer Lopez). What starts out as a mentor-mentee relationship quickly blossoms into a sister mentality. Wu & Lopez have incredible chemistry between one another. Each strong within their own arcs but even stronger as a pair of sisters. Though, perhaps it is Lopez who stands out the most within the film. If you were to go through Lopez’s filmography on Rotten Tomatoes, she hasn’t always chosen the best project.
Her filmography largely consists of romantic comedies that have been poorly received, thrillers that haven’t thrilled enough or a number of unwanted Ice Age sequels. Hustlers, however, boasts a career defining performance from Lopez, much in the vein of Johnny Depp’s turn as Whitey Bulger in Black Mass. Lopez elevates the film to new heights. She completely captivates every frame that she is featured in. Crafting a sincerely driven, smart, and lovable character with sheer intensity and electricity. Partnering her with Wu, only solidifies that performance all the more.
The storytelling approach of Hustlers offers up more than a mere heist film. Again, that is derived from Pressler’s source material and Scafaria’s script. The main cast is rounded out by Keke Palmer & Lili Reinhart. Both of which just add even more appeal to the film. When Palmer and Reinhart are paired with Wu & Lopez, the film feels natural. The pacing and relationships of the movie are just that: natural. There is nothing within the confides of Hustlers that ever feels forced or natural. The individuality of each arc shapes its core cast in tremendous ways, while also adding a piece of themselves to the larger narrative.
While the majority of the narrative is utterly flawless, it is not without its faults. The set-up for the film, prior to the introduction of Elizabeth (Julia Stiles), feels clumsy at best. There are several points within the first act that feel a bit jumbled. Adding in brief performances from Cardi B, Marcy Richardson & Lizzo add fuel to the fire for the film’s issues. While the characters help to fill the world out, they are largely white noise by the first frame featuring Lopez. The electrifying debut, which leaves Wu in awe, casts the remainder of the characters as forgettable.
Overall, Hustlers, is an electrifying surprise. Led brilliantly by Jennifer Lopez, with a career defining performance, Hustlers early in its narrative it has more to offer. Lopez completely encapsulates every frame that she is in with utter intensity, ruthlessness and absolute joy. Lopez turns in the best performance she’s given in years. When matched with Constance Wu, the two encompass a rare chemistry that develops naturally and blends marvelously. The duel leading ladies prove that Hustlers has more to offer than a couple of dance moves. The film boasts incredible depth and heart. With the addition of Keke Palmer & Lili Reinhart the movie only solidifies its depth. Hustlers manages to humanize every one of its main cast, while pacing itself to keep its natural nature and having every character add to the larger narrative. The set up for Hustlers isn’t as graceful as its final product. Sifting its way through a clumsy narrative and wooden performances from its supporting cast. However, with every thing else in its arsenal, Hustlers is a world of depth and satisfying performances.
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