REVIEW: HUSTLERS (2019)
This aspirational tale shines a light on the little-known story of four New York strippers who, in the wake of the 2008 global financial crisis, decide to drug and fleece their Wall Street clientele. It's very much an analogy of the American Dream, a sort of revisionist take that demonstrates how one can succeed through a powerful combination of brains, feminine wiles and a heavy mixture of narcotics. The actions of the protagonists should cause an ethical dilemma for audiences but, as Jennifer Lopez's ringleader sharply points out, the victims fucked the country without doing jail time so are hardly deserving of anyone's tears.
On the subject of J-Lo, she is an absolute revelation as the feisty Ramona. Her performance is full of the raw sexuality one would expect of a pop superstar, but underneath the surface there is genuine vulnerability and an unwavering belief in female solidarity. She is more than deserving of the critical acclaim that has come her way since the film's release, and should be bang in contention for an Academy Award at next year's ceremony.
Constance Wu is also excellent as Destiny, who begins the film down-on-her-luck before she begins her profitable racket. Her character is intriguing in the sense that she seems conflicted by a dogged determination to be successful in spite of others and her clear admiration for Ramona. She seems to be tussling between independence and sisterhood throughout the film, with neither emotional state ever staking a claim as the dominant motivator behind her actions.
Lorene Scafaria also deserves praise not only for her excellent screenplay but the whole aesthetic of this picture. Hustlers is an excellent film all round and I particularly enjoyed how the director moves between the perceived glamour of the lap dancing world and its lesser-seen but nonetheless authentic underbelly, where club owners profit of the work of their staff. All of the characters are brilliantly fleshed out by Scafaria, making it much easier to sympathise with their actions and root for a happy outcome (despite that only ever seeming like a fleeting possibility).
Undoubtedly one of the standout films of 2019, Hustlers is a story for our age and a great success for all involved.