Hustlers (2019)

Hustlers is based on the New York magazine’s 2015 article “The Hustlers at Scores: The Ex-Strippers Who Stole From (Mostly) Rich Men and Gave to, Well, Themselves” by Jessica Pressler. It confirms to me what I’ve always known about men’s clubs. The men think they run the world, but they have little to no power at all, despite the small bits of cash and ego they try to sap from the women who are way above them.

Lorene Scafaria, who wrote Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist and wrote and directed Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, wrote and directed this film. It’s told through flashbacks as reporter Elizabeth (Julia Stiles) is working on a story about the girls and how they robbed men to pay for their lives.

Destiny (Constance Wu, Crazy Rich Asians) is dancing at Moves — you know, Scores — to support her grandmother but is barely getting by until she learns the ins and outs of dancing from Ramona (Jennifer Lopez). Seriously, this entire movie should belong to J. Lo. The scene where she mesmerizes Destiny before letting her hide under her fur coat on the roof? That’s why she’s still the biggest star around at fifty.

After the financial crisis of 2007–2008 — and one last night with Usher throwing enough money at the girls to solve all of my money woes for life — things get rough. No one has money and the Russian girls that work the club now are more about selling sexual favors than using their bodies to make money the old fashioned way without really having sex.

That’s when Ramona and Destiny reconnect and start using a mix of Special K and MDMA to knock dudes out and take all of their cash via credit card at the club. Life’s good again, but it can’t last.

The other girls in the film are played by Keke Plamer (who hosts Strahan, Sara and Keke with Sara Haines and Michael Strahan), Lili Reinhart (Betty from Riverdale), transgender actress Trace Lysette (who before she became one of the first trans people to appear as a non-transgender person on prime time television in a speaking role performed as a showgirl in bars around Dayton and Columbus, Ohio), Madeline Brewer (Orange Is the New BlackThe Handmaid’s Tale) and Lizzo and Cardi B in what are pretty much cameo roles. Plus, Mercedes Ruhl is the mother of all the ladies.

In truth, Cardi B has admitted to illegally drugging and robbing men in the early stages of her career, so she pretty much knows exactly what this movie is all about. Lopez personally brought the actress on board, saying “I know she knew this world better than any of us. I told her she had to do it. And I wasn’t going to take no for an answer.”

Stand up comedian Big Jay Oakerson plays the club’s DJ and one of the customers who gets taken is played by Devin Ratray, who was Buzz in the Home Alone films and the bully in Little Monsters.

This wasn’t bad, to be honest. It could have used more of the dog, Mister Bruce, who is a scene stealer. And there’s one scene I’d like to call out: after the Russian girls start, guys start ignoring Ramona, even paying her to leave one evening. Is this movie science fiction? Jennifer Lopez is setting the screen on fire and this dude is like, “We’re all good, thanks.” Certainly, this man is an android from the Weyland-Yutani company and not a stockbroker from the boiler room.

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