By Yasmin Inkersole, 3rd Year, English
Jenifer Lopez attracts Oscar buzz with a standout performance as a stripper who exploits the wealthy men for whom she has had to perform in clubs.
Lorene Scafaria’s latest release, Hustlers (2019) is a unique blend of fast-paced action, high stakes and the strong bond of female friendship. Based on the remarkable true story told in Jessica Pressler’s article ‘The Hustlers at Scores’, Hustlers follows the life of main character Destiny (Constance Wu), a stripper struggling to earn cash in New York.
The plot centres on Destiny’s fast friendship with Ramona (Jennifer Lopez), a veteran stripper who takes Destiny under her wing. However, things rapidly get out of hand after the Wall Street Crash, when Destiny, Ramona and other strippers must decide what lengths they will go to for money.
The strength of the film lies in its credible characters: Lopez in particular excels in her role as Ramona. In what many critics have described as a ‘career best’ performance, her swagger and sass exude confidence. A single mother, Ramona’s character is complex, with her maternal instinct showing in her relationships with the other girls and her smart, self-assured business sense determining many key moments in the story.
In the most well-publicised scene of the film, Ramona performs a pole dance which culminates in thousands of dollars being thrown on the stage for her to bathe in. Lopez performed the dance sequence without a stunt double, and with only two months of pole training. The physically challenging choreography is the highlight of the scene, with camera shots panning around Ramona to catch the different angles of the pole, and the awe-struck audience watching her.
Hustlers captivates the audience’s attention with bold characters and fast-paced storytelling
The film takes on a distinctly darker tone following the 2007-2008 financial crisis, when Destiny and Ramona become ringleaders of a group of female dancers. Now a mother herself, Destiny is willing to go even further than before to make the money she needs, and together with Ramona the girls create a mix of ketamine and MDMA to slip into the drinks of wealthy men they meet at bars.
Taken in a stupor to the strip club, these men quickly fall unconscious, leaving the girls to abuse their cash and cards. The plan works: their victims assume they have had an out-of-control night of spending at the club and are too ashamed to report any missing money. However, the situation changes when Ramona invites Dawn to join their group. A scatter-brained drug addict, Dawn is a dangerous liability.
Things rapidly get out of hand after the Wall Street Crash, when Destiny, Ramona and other strippers must decide what lengths they will go to for money
The structure of the film is a framed narrative: a story within a story. The majority of the film is taken up with Destiny and Ramona’s activities together, however the plot is fractured by cuts to a present-day Destiny, sitting on her sofa being interviewed by a journalist. These moments reveal that the scenes we have been watching are actually flashbacks, recalled by Destiny to the journalist.
An interesting narrative move, this structure allows for frequent moments of suspense for viewers. When Destiny becomes annoyed with the interviewer, or emotional from relating the details of her friendship with Ramona, she pauses the story and builds tension before she decides to continue.
An interesting exploration of female relationships and money-making schemes, Hustlers captivates the audience’s attention with bold characters and fast-paced storytelling. Its foundations in reality give an added sense of authenticity to the film. The acting of Wu and Lopez is extremely compelling, and brings the original and creative script together for an enticing tale of motherhood, money and morality.
Featured: IMDb / STX Films
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