Saturday, October 12, 2019

Hustlers

Starring: Jennifer Lopez, Constance Wu, Julia Stiles, Lili Reinhart
Director: Lorene Scafaria
Running Time: 1 hour, 50 minutes
Rating: R

If this movie doesn't make you want to go to the gym, nothing will. This star-studded cast are all at their best - both acting-wise and physically - and the fact that this film is based off a true story makes it all the more compelling. The movie does take some liberties and slightly exaggerates the real life account, but still, I don't know how I didn't hear about this in the news! I was on the fence about watching this film, a story about women exploiting their sexuality for money, but they sure try to convince themselves and the audience that it's alright. The directors and screenwriters are also women, which gave me more confidence that they would handle the subject matter appropriately. These women clearly broke the law, but it's an incredibly entertaining film, and you won't be able to look away.

We meet our protagonist, Destiny (Constance Wu), in 2007. She's an amateur dancer, trying to make some extra cash to help her grandmother. She's doing alright for herself, until she sees Queen Bee Ramona (J. Lo) and the crazy amount of cash she is able to earn. Destiny convinces Ramona to mentor her, and she begins tutoring her in all things strip club. The scene where Ramona teaches Destiny how to pole dance features a classical music underscoring, reminding us there is an art to this type of movement. Fast forward to the recession of 2008, when things slow down significantly - clients vacate the clubs, people stop spending money  - and the ladies find themselves down on their luck. Until one day, Ramona hatches up a new plan. It's illegal, but it's effective.

This film is an interesting game of - who's really the bad guy here? Should we root for these ladies who are criminals, drugging and robbing men? Or the sleazy men who frequent the clubs and demand sexual favors? Then one day, the women decide they've had enough of the creeps and start picking up seemingly innocent men at bars, drugging them and leading them to the club where they run up their credit cards. It's not a spoiler to say that's ultimately how the ladies' empire collapses.

The fact that J. Lo is 50 years old is freaking insane. Her hair should win an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. It also makes sense that this film was produced by Adam McKay and Will Ferrell, who had their hands in "The Big Short", because the narration and style reminded me of that film. My girl Lili Reinhart does her best with the role she's given, and Keke Palmer provides some comedic relief. The soundtrack is killer and so is the hair/make-up and costuming. The chemistry among these women is palpable. You really buy into this sisterhood they've created.

You'll leave this film feeling pretty unsettled and out of shape, but these women did a fantastic job telling this unbelievable story. It will really make you question just how far people will go to survive.

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