Spoiler warning: I’m going to talk about maybe half the needle drops in Lorene Scafaria’s Hustlers, because they fucking rule, just like this movie!! I think what makes them work so well is that they are either exactly right on the money for what you would want for the stripper heist movie, so big and take-no-prisoners that you’re half stunned they managed to get the rights to these icons—Janet Jackson, Britney, Usher, Lorde. Or, they’re spectacularly left-field and weird and intelligent—Fiona Apple, Chopin, a fucking surreal morbid Jacques Brel song(!?). And that’s Hustlers. It’s a huge fun splashy riot of a good time, and also really strong and smart about the 2007 financial crisis, and the inherent corruption of wealth, and what control really means and looks like and feels like when you take it—and what it feels like when you start to lose it.
It’s also about Jennifer Lopez’s molecular control over her entire earthly body. How. How. The woman is 50 years old and a goddess. I mean the answer is partly money (again, Hustlers all over!) but I also don’t want to deny her innate…magic. She’s a gorgeous powerful star and I’m so glad we’ve been given good reason to remember it. J.Lo in this movie is giving off what I’m going to call big Cate Blanchett energy, in the sense of topping many critics’ current Best Supporting Actress lists, and also just topping. She’s constantly wearing these luxurious fur coats between towering heels and this warm smile, like the world’s sexiest mama bear. Early on she’s enthroned on a rooftop smoking when tiny adorable Constance Wu comes out of the door and nervously asks for a light, and Ramona takes one look at her in the cold night, lifts her coat and says “Come inside my fur,” beckoning her to the step between her knees. I mean. MAGNIFICENT.
I can only recall the name of one man in this movie, and even for him I only have half of it because they kept bleeping out his last name, in a hilarious and sharp move for this, a true crime story. Men are genuinely just marks here, we might as well just call all of them Mark, for all that it matters. Instead, we just have a whole lot of women, both in front and behind the camera, and it shows. The strip scenes are smoking hot and yet non-leering, I think because it’s always centered on what the women’s POV is on the scene? And hey sometimes their POV is just “wow that’s smoking hot!”—here’s looking at you, Constance Wu looking at Jennifer Lopez.
But Hustlers feels far less self-consciously Feminist than the convenient lady crime comparison point Ocean’s 8, which always had a whiff of marketing to it, probably inherent in being a genderbent rendition of an existing movie starring men. Several have been comparing Hustlers to Goodfellas, but I haven’t seen Goodfellas, so that’s as far as I can take you there. What I do know, and like very much, are funny, propulsive movies where charismatic thieves scam the wealthy while trying to avoid landing in hot water themselves. And while gender politics are inherently built in to this specific set-up, it’s the glamorous heist genre that is the primary blueprint here. This is a movie before it is a statement, which is what allows it to be such a successful, rich piece of entertainment. No pun intended.
I have to mention Keke Palmer and Lili Reinhart, who round out the criminal quartet at the center, and are both wonderfully funny and engaging, love an ensemble! Cardi B and Lizzo very much just have cameos, they are not in this movie very long at all, but if you’re gonna do it these two were entirely the correct choice and fun as hell. There is another cameo they’ve been keep semi-secret, you may already know, but just in case I’ll just say that I found it surprisingly poignant? I think something to do with the feeling I got when “2007” popped up over the opening scene and I thought half wistfully “oh, it’s a period piece.”
Listen, time moves fast—get all your friends to Hustlers before it’s gone, like so many Wall Street guys’ expense accounts.