‘Hustlers’ is a Powerhouse of Social Critique and Female Friendship

Hustlers (written and directed by Lorene Scafaria) is a whirlwind look into the exclusive world of high-class strippers as they struggle to stay on top of an ever-shifting industry. Based on a true story, Hustlers beautifully demonstrates the highs, lows, friendships, catastrophes, and subversive truths of the lives of multiple women that work in the stripping industry. (DLH: 4.5/5)

Review by FF2 Associate Dayna Hagewood

Hustlers begins on Destiny’s first night (Constance Wu) at a new strip club. The camera follows her around the club as she attempts to engage with various men. After striking out multiple times and even encroaching on other strippers’ “territory,” Destiny sets her sights on Ramona (played by J. Lo). It is immediately evident that Ramona is the star of the club. She’s dressed to the nines, has men fawning over her, and scores tons of money every night.

Destiny soon ventures onto the roof of the club after her lackluster night and finds Ramona smoking there. The two sit together to fend off the cold and Ramona eventually agrees to show Destiny the ropes of how to make money as a stripper.

With this exposition in place, Hustlers absolutely takes off sprinting. Viewers are plunged into the excessive, indulgent, and enticing world of high-class strip clubs, loads of money, and a lavish lifestyle that most of us only ever see on the screen. In this way, Hustlers sucks us into its world effortlessly. At points, it’s hard to watch. At others, it’s absolutely mesmerizing. It is simultaneously a social critique and a round of applause for female solidarity. It is complex, nuanced, and constantly in motion.

One of the most intriguing parts about Hustlers is the investment in Ramona and Destiny. Their relationship evolves continuously, screams to a halt, and chugs along slowly again. It is this relationship that is central to the film as these two women attempt to navigate their rapidly changing lifestyles in the context of demand for women’s bodies and performance.

Hustlers also does an incredible job of displaying the excessive capitalistic culture that governs the main characters’ abilities to remain financially stable. The film opens in 2007 and the threat of the 2008 recession looms smartly over the first act of the film like a terrible omen. Even though we invest in the culture of excess in Hustlers, we are acutely aware of the consequences and problems it brings.

With a star-studded cast and a powerful bombshell of a story to tell, Hustlers succeeds in all that it set out to do. It demolishes many stereotypes about strippers, submits to our innate desire to take part in this culture (even if only voyeuristically), and manages to construct a beautiful and winding story about two women and their hopes, failures, and relationships as they attempt to make it in their own ways.

© Dayna Hagewood (9/20/2019) FF2 Media

Featured Photo: The women celebrate after scoring thousands of dollars in one night.

Top photo: Ramona (Jennifer Lopez) showing Destiny (Constance Wu) her best moves.

Middle Photo: Ramona and Destiny smoking on the roof of the club.

Bottom Photo: Ramona and Destiny escorting a man to the club.

Photo Credits: Hustlers EPK, Andrew Hreha (Industry Art Works) 2019

Does Hustlers pass the Bechdel-Wallace test?

Yes, absolutely. Destiny and Ramona talk about their kids, shopping, ambitions, and hardships throughout the film.

Tags: FF2 Media, J-Lo

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Dayna graduated from Rutgers University in May of 2019 with a degree in English and Cinema Studies and a concentration in Creative Writing. Dayna loves working with FF2 Media because writing about film harmonizes her greatest interests and allows her to participate in showcasing women artists doing amazing work. As a writer, film buff, and avid cross-stitcher, Dayna appreciates that FF2 carves out a space for women artists in an industry so unwilling to lend one to marginalized groups. She is proud to aid in creating and facilitating that necessary space.
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