In director Lorene Scafaria’s Hustlers, inspired by ‘The Hustlers at Scores’ by Jessica Pressler, ex-stripper Dorothy, also known under the alias Destiny, recounts her past seven years working in the sex industry, during an interview. Throughout the interview, she talks about her growing friendship with star-stripper Ramona Vega, and how as they create their own side industry are able to live in luxury. As the plot develops, it becomes evident that this way of life does not come without a cost.
While making a movie that concentrates on themes such as sex and drugs, it seems obvious how easily the plot could become somewhat crass and vulgar and therefore not give much meaning to the movie, if only making it a shock-factor film. Yet, Scafaria does not take the path often traveled. She manages to create a wholesome environment throughout the whole movie; instead of focusing on the fact that the main characters are strippers, the movie focuses on the fact that they are women. Hustlers underlines the harsh reality of being a single mother, and as the plot develops, it is gut-wrenching to see how much Dorothy and Ramona are willing to sacrifice for their children. Although being a stripper seems degrading, the whole point of the movie is to show that through their work, these women are claiming their power back, fighting tooth and nail to survive in a man’s world. Nevertheless, the movie seems to romanticize the life of a stripper, and whilst it delivers a depiction of the glamourous possibilities, it does not portray well enough the harsh reality of the job itself.
The cast for Hustlers is amazing, and fortunately this pays off. With cameos from Cardi B and Lizzo, the cast was already very promising. Each actress really pulls their weight, but above all, Jennifer Lopez delivers a superb performance. Her pole-dancing scenes are hypnotizing and her confidence as a performer is felt beyond the screen. Lili Reihnhart and Keke Palmer add an innocent and comedic tone to the movie and are visually stunning throughout the film. To add to that, the movie’s soundtrack pays a brilliant homage to 2010s pop and RnB music.
By the end of the screening, I felt empowered, ready to invoke my inner “bad bitch” and seriously considered stripping as a career if I failed my year. Ultimately however, this movie is not game-changing and did not touch me in a profound way; the feeling of confidence I had at the end of the screening wasn’t long-lasting and did not provoke any deep thoughts. Overall, Hustlers is a good watch, but does not incite any desire to rush back for a second viewing.
Image Credit: Gloria Sanchez Productions