By: McKenzie Gibel, Contributor
In a genre mostly dominated by male leads, women have stolen the show in a string of great female heist movies including Ocean’s 8 and The Hustle. However, anyone expecting Hustlers to be another lighthearted heist movie starring female badassery should think again before watching this movie. There are some badass females involved – played by some of the biggest stars in the business, including Jennifer Lopez, Constance Wu, Keke Palmer, and Lili Reinhart – but this movie doesn’t leave you feeling warm and fuzzy (or like you could kick down a wall and single handedly dismantle the patriarchy).
Hustlers is based on a true story published by the New York Magazine in 2015, titled “The Hustlers at Scores” which describes four strippers who decided to play Robin Hood, robbing from rich clientele and giving to the poor – AKA themselves. Written and directed by Lorene Scafaria, Hustlers is a potent analysis of the power of friendship, desperation, motherhood, and greed. It is about women trying to take control of their lives and gain some margin of power.
The article written by Jessica Presler, confirms that the movie follows the true story almost to the letter, making it that much more fascinating. Where it differs, however, is arguably more interesting. Where the article focuses on the mechanics of the operation itself, why they did it, and what went wrong, Scafaria emphasized the relationships between the conspirators in the movie. The honest affection and respect that these women held for each other humanizes the story in a way the article doesn’t. These relationships were brought to life through the stirring performances of Jennifer Lopez and Constance Wu especially, but also in the directing – in the scenes where the gang was celebrating Christmas together, and supporting each other through personal tragedies.
In essence, this movie is a brutally honest look at humanity and at a world where there are no “good guys” or “bad guys” – just people. People doing their best to survive in a world where you need past experience to get a job in retail, where a document defines your intelligence, and where capitalism and materialism are synonymous. In the end, Jennifer Lopez’s Ramona sums it up nicely by stating, “The whole country is a strip club: you’ve got people throwing the money and you’ve got people doing the dance.”