The 2012 male stripper drama “Magic Mike” made women go crazy for Channing Tatum and Matthew McConaughey (who actually won an Independent Spirit Award for his performance). Now it’s the ladies’ turn to take center stage with “Hustlers”. Can this movie make men go gaga watching Constance Wu, Cardi B and Jennifer Lopez (who’s receiving Best Supporting Actress buzz) bump and grind as “dancers” just trying to make a living?
“Hustlers” is inspired by a 2015 New York Magazine article about a group of female strippers who, in order to make money in post-2008 recession NYC, came-up with a new strategy. Instead of getting paid in dollar bills, the ladies drugged their male clients (mostly wealthy Wall Street traders) and ran-up huge charges on their credit cards.
This is writer/director Lorene Scafaria’s most mainstream movie to date. Her previous two films, “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World” and “The Meddler”, were small, personal and low-key. “Hustlers” is the kind of film (female-driven and crowd-pleasing, mixing grit and flash) that will allow mass audiences (and Hollywood) to witness Scafaria’s talent.
However, “Hustlers” is not a perfect “10”. The film features some of my least favorite cinematic elements. There’s a heavily-fractured timeline, with the story told (mostly) in flashback. Julia Stiles plays the magazine writer interviewing Wu’s Dorothy for the article. Also, there’s way too much use of slow-motion. And there’s a character whose sole purpose is to graphically vomit, numerous times — simply for laughs. None of these were necessary and only serve to confuse, distract and disgust.
There is a nice authenticity of time and place with “Hustlers” (helped by a big-time celeb cameo). And the script provides Lopez and Wu with some clever dialogue. Probably the most interesting element (from a cinematic standpoint) is the soundtrack. It’s an mixture of pop hits and classical (predominantly Chopin) selections. The odd combination that actually works.
Wu and Lopez are a strong pairing. Lopez certainly gives it her all as veteran stripper Ramona, who takes Wu’s rookie “Destiny” under her wing. It’s this relationship that’s at the heart of this film. Diehard Cardi B fans will be disappointed by her lack of screen time.
Does this film reveal anything new about this “industry” and those who inhabit it? No. But it’s okay to throw a $20 at “Hustlers”. Just keep your credit card in your pocket.