The past few years have been ones of great change in Hollywood and the film industry as a whole; the emergence of the #MeToo and #TimesUp exposed several unacceptable practices and people within the industry and, directly or indirectly, birthed a new age of female-led films.
Naturally, this has been met with backlash from a vocal minority, outraged that the norm is being challenged and that the stranglehold that was held over film was being loosened.
In case you haven’t gleamed from the past two paragraphs, I’m very much in favour of the emergence of new female-led films, stories are universal as a general rule, and I don’t naturally empathise with a character based in ether gender, but their individual struggle, no matter their gender, race or religion.
That being said, there are certain moral mazes to be found in films starring women too, and we’ll get more into that later, but for now, let’s get on with the review.
Dorothy (Constance Wu) takes up ‘exotic dancing’ to support her family, and soon meets the more experienced Ramona (Jennifer Lopez) Who shows her the ropes of getting the most money from their clientele, unfortunately, the stock market crash lurks just around the corner.
The broader narrative of Hustlers begins in 2007, just before the economic recession that hit in ’08, and this plays a part in the middle of the story, adding to the struggle as suddenly, the tidal wave of Wall Street investors begins to dwindle.
You could be forgiven for having seen the trailer and written Hustlers off as an easy comedy about a bunch of strippers who steal from their client base, but beneath that basic premise lies a larger heart, and more importantly, brain than you could have gleamed.
It mixes in the extravagance of life before recession for both the girls and the bankers and brokers with the inevitable crash. It doesn’t set the girls up a common thieves, but rather women with bills to pay just doing a job, and seeing how far they can push the boundaries.
Obviously, this leads to more unsavoury activities down the line, putting the viewer in an uncomfortable moral quandary, are we to sympathise or demonise these characters we may have grown to like? Well, that would entirely depend on your outlook, and knowing how much of a sewer online opinions could be, it’s an argument you could do well to steer away from. For what it’s worth, I don’t get the sense that the film is glamorising fraud, but it also never demonises those who work in the sex industry, a very fine line to walk I’m sure you’ll all agree.
Following on from my previous review, this is another film with a strong cast. It’s a great vehicle for Constance Wu, showing off her range, mirrored very well by Jenifer Lopez’s performance, both mix together a manipulative side with a sympathetic side, both for different reasons, and they make for an intriguing double-act.
Certain scenes are dripping in a neon stylishness that could have been made more use of I feel, there are certain glimpses of a higher intention of filmmaking, there are certain scenes that are rather pedestrian, but there’s also some lovely uses of tracking shots and close-ups to show us that there was an accomplished filmmaker behind this project.
I do have some complaints, the inclusion of Cardi B in the cast seems desperate for a larger exposure (as is the inclusion of a certain cameo early on), she adds very little besides base name recognition, her acting certainly wasn’t a great addition; and the timeline jumps can get a bit muddled and hard to follow.
But, besides these few quibbles, I had a great time with Hustlers. Some good performances as likeable characters with flashes of accomplished filmmaking flourish made it a very enjoyable watch and I’d highly recommend giving it a chance.