Cast: Constance Wu, Jennifer Lopez, Julia Stiles, Keke Palmer
Director: Lorene Scafaria
When I found out that Hustlers would be premiering at TIFF this year, I suddenly became interested in how it would be received by critical and general audiences alike. I’m definitely not the target audience for this movie, but even taking that into consideration, Hustlers is still one of the most entertaining yet sensitive movies of the fall. With an impressive supporting performance by Lopez and cinematic elements that enhance the overall story, Hustlers surpassed my expectations and became one of the surprise hits of the end of the year.
The film is shown to us in interview form as a journalist named Elizabeth (Stiles) interviews Destiny (Wu), a former stipper who helped run a scam where she would get rich men inebriated and then charge them in excess for what they did that night. Hustlers chronicles Destiny’s journey from an unhappy stipper, through her friendship with an experienced stripped named Ramona (Lopez), to their eventual creation and downfall of a scheme to get rich off the backs of the corporate executives who ruined the economy in 2007. One of the elements that makes Hustlers so successful is the way it presents its subject matter and how it doesn’t necessarily take a side. This moral ambiguity is displayed by how these women are treated by selfish and greedy men, but at the same time as their scheme goes on their actions have real, life-changing consequences to people who may not deserve that. While Adam McKay did not direct this movie, his presence as a producer makes Hustlers feel like it’s one of his movies. Not quite as refined as Vice or The Big Short, Hustlers still provides both an incredible insight into a true story as well as an entertaining perspective to mold the movie around. One of the more interesting scenes is when Destiny gets upset during the interview and shuts the recorder off. After she does this, we can’t hear anything that happens until that scene ends. I thought this was very creative and really immersed the audience into the interview instead of just using it as a lens to tell the story through. Outside of the storytelling, I was very impressed with how Lopez commands every scene she’s in. For a supporting character, Lopez commands every the screen whenever she’s in the movie. While the movie is shown from Destiny’s perspective, it can be argued that Lopez is just as valuable if not more valuable than Wu to the movie and without Lopez I don’t believe this movie would’ve been able to make the point that it set out to make. Hustlers is certainly a unique movie and when you look at Lopez’s film career from a critical standpoint, this is absolutely a unique performance that shows us that maybe she has even more talent than we originally thought. If this does end up netting Lopez an Academy Award nomination or win, I can safely say that both will have been well-deserved. Hustlers may not be as well fleshed-out as some of the other movies in its genre, but it’s definitely more palatable and appealing to audiences who don’t want to deal with some of the more political elements that similar films are centered around.
Overall, Hustlers combines a sense of humor, a morally complex plot, and an ensemble performance that gives all of these actresses the space to show their skills and add something unique to the movie. For director Scafaria, this is easily the biggest hit of her career both critically and financially and I hope she gets the opportunity to deliver more movies like this in the future.
Overall Score: 7.5/10