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TIFF Movie Review: Hustlers

As I sit here listening to the HUSTLERS soundtrack and writing this review, I am here to tell you that this movie is worth all the hype. It is entertaining, celebrates diversity and female friendships, has the best music of the year, and most importantly stars Jennifer Lopez in one of the best performances of her career. I also want to recognize the film’s awesome writer-director, Lorene Scafaria, who also wrote NICK AND NORAH’S INFINITE PLAYLIST. No wonder she has such a great taste in music. Literally the only thing I did not like about the film was the use of fur. Although the movie is based on a true story, I really hope that fur was fake.

Jennifer Lopez in fur coat showing Constance Wu the ropes in Hustlers

It’s 2007, and Destiny (Constance Wu)—a rookie exotic dancer—is struggling to make a living for herself and support her ailing grandmother. She doesn’t know how to work the pole (or clients) as expertly as her fellow dancers and her male bosses take advantage of her financially. Until one night, when she starts dancing at a new club and realizes she can learn a lot from its most popular and experienced dancer, Ramona (Jennifer Lopez), who welcomes Destiny with open arms. Ramona shows Destiny new moves she can use to earn better tips with clients and even offers to perform in a double act with her.

The two women become fast friends, and along with other dancers in the club really start to rake in the money. But when the financial crisis hits in 2008, the affluence dries up and the women’s jobs are not as lucrative as they once were; their rich Wall Street clients are no longer spending money on such frivolity as strip clubs. So Ramona, Destiny, and their colleagues Annabelle (Lili Reinhart) and Mercedes (KeKe Palmer) start using a new, less-than-legal scheme to make up for their lost earnings… plus some.

Jennifer Lopez, Constance Wu, Keke Palmer, and Lili Reinart in Hustlers

I am a diehard J-Lo fan and have been since I first saw her in SELENA all those years ago. I watched that movie over and over and was mesmerized by what a triple threat she is. She has been that same amazing performer throughout the decades to follow. From ENOUGH to OUT OF SIGHT to MAID IN MANHATTAN, Lopez has shown that she can star in any genre of film and make it her own. And for years, I have said to anyone that will listen to me that she is one of the most underrated actresses working today. Yes, everyone respects J-Lo’s music and dancing, but I don’t think she is recognized enough for her incredible filmography. In this film, it took someone with Lopez’s talent and self-awareness to know how to use every inch of her body to expertly personify Ramona’s queen bee persona. Anyone (okay, probably not me) can learn how to dance on a pole, but J-Lo made the dancing her own, almost like she invented the moves herself. And don’t get me started on femme fatale crew’s regal, slow-motion walks though bars and hallways. Flawless.

After giving Jennifer Lopez her due, it’s also important to talk about the rest of the incredible cast, who are as talented as they are diverse; they also rock some pretty killer costumes. I liked that there are so many ethnicities and body shapes represented in the cast that we usually would not see in a movie like this. I also appreciated that the cast included Trace Lysette (TRANSPARENT) and did not address the fact that she is transgender; she was just another talented, gorgeous dancer in the club.

The chemistry between the entire cast was off the charts. So much so, I honestly started wishing I could be in their friend group. Everyone looked like they were having such a good time. I may not be able to dance, or wear those tiny outfits, or suspend my guilty conscience, but I *can* recite pretty much the entire dialogue of TITANIC and bake a pretty mean red velvet cake. That has to be good for something, right?

Jennifer Lopez and Constance Wu in Hustlers

The music in HUSTLERS is also a character itself. Every scene is augmented with a fantastic song that fits the scene perfectly. If I had to choose one favorite scene, it would have to be J-Lo and the rest of the girls dancing to Britney Spears’ “Gimme More” Pretty sure I somehow subconsciously willed this scene into existence. When you add Fiona Apple’s “Criminal” and Cardi B’s “Money”, you may not think we deserve anything else, but the soundtrack still keeps bringing the magic.

Please go see HUSTLERS. I never beg, but I really want this one to do well at the box office. With your purchased ticket, you will show Hollywood that along with big blockbusters, these smaller, character study films are also the types of movies they should be making; movies that are smart, entertaining, and explore characters that we have not seen much on-screen.

My Review: A

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