The brain-child of writer-director Lorene Scafaria, Hustler is based on the real-life tale about a group of high-end strippers who found creative ways to drain the bank accounts of their Wall Street clientele.
Told from the perspective of newbie stripper Destiny (Constance Wu), the early scenes focus on the budding friendship between Destiny and veteran stripper Ramona (Jennifer Lopez). Both Wu and Lopez delivery Oscar-worthy performances.
Lopez dominates those scenes as she performs a showstopping pole dance routine, demonstrates a repertoire of moves, among them the “Fireman” and “Peter Pan,” and later envelopes an adoring Destiny in the folds of her fur coat.
The 2008 recession brought this campy fun to a halt.
Down but not down for long, Ramona concocts a drug-and-fraud scheme and then persuades Destiny and several other strippers to join her new venture. Ramona’s justification: If stripping simplifies relations between men and women, why not do whatever it takes to get payment at the end of the evening?
From start to finish, the focus is on the diverse group of women who populate “real” strip clubs. Scafaria cast women of all shapes and sizes, steering away from the usual Hollywood versions. As for the scam victims, their looks and personalities could be described as forgettable. White, wealthy, and vain, these men evoke little sympathy.
When caught, Destiny repents, but amoral Ramona stays true to her principles.
While the story dates back over a decade, many of its themes still resonate. In a recent interview, Lorene Scafaria commented, “I’m hoping that the conversation outside of the movie is about gender and the economy—what it is that we provide, and what we get back. It’s not quite the fair trade.”
A thought-provoking film!