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‘Hustlers’ (review)

Produced by Jessica Elbaum, Will Ferrell,
Adam McKay, Jennifer Lopez,
Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas

Screenplay by Lorene Scafaria
Based on “The Hustlers at Scores”
by Jessica Pressler

Directed by Lorene Scafaria
Starring Constance Wu, Jennifer Lopez,
Julia Stiles, Keke Palmer, Lili Reinhart, Lizzo,
Cardi B, Mercedes Ruehl, Madeline Brewer

Jennifer Lopez’s entrance in Hustlers is a show-stopper: The club grinds to a halt when legendary stripper Ramona (Lopez) takes the stage and the effect on the audience is the same as on main character Destiny (Constance Wu).

We can’t take our eyes off Lopez, who’s the best she’s been since 1995’s Out of Sight. It’s not just that Lopez is in fantastic shape at age 50 (that can’t be denied), but that she’s finally playing a character as complex and memorable as Karen Sisco.

The movie belongs to her, down to the final line about all the world being a strip club. Give that woman all the awards now.

The true story of how strippers decided to fleece their rich clients is understandably being compared to Scorsese’s Goodfellas, and the similarities are undeniable: The same rush of a score successfully completed, the lavish buying sprees.. and the eventual sloppiness that takes down the crew.

The movie cuts between the women plying unsuspecting Wall Street types with their special knockout blend of ketamine and MDMA and Destiny being interviewed for the New York magazine article that it’s based on.

At one point, an emotional Destiny challenges an interviewer (Julia Stiles) over her “comfortable” upbringing, asking, “What would you do for $1000?”

We see enough of the degrading side of stripping, so when these women start drugging and robbing clients — including some of the abusive jerks from their past — we’re on their side. Until Ramona starts making some bad calls and Destiny feels like she can’t trust her anymore.

While Wu has a less colorful character to play, she makes Destiny a sympathetic, compelling character. (The scene where she drops off her daughter at school, oblivious to the fact the other mothers are completely scandalized by her appearance, is gold.)

You could call Hustlers a popcorn movie. It’s definitely an audience pleaser. But it’s got more depth and more on its mind than you might expect. Of all the awards-friendly movies you’re going to see this year, this might be the most fun. And the one you’re going to want to watch again.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

 

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