“Hustlers” Review: A Fantastic and Empowering Story That Doesn’t Demonize Sex Workers

Hustlers
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Hustlers is a glorious mix of sex and scandal while telling an absolutely insane “rob from the rich” story.

Director: Lorene Scafaria
Summary: Inspired by the viral New York Magazine article, Hustlers follows a crew of savvy former strip club employees who band together to turn the tables on their Wall Street clients.

"Hustlers" Review: A Fantastic and Empowering Story That Doesn't Demonize Sex WorkersBack in 2015 an article from The Cut went viral and it told a very interesting story. It was how a handful of former strippers learned to rob from the extremely wealthy in New York using their wiles and a mix of MDMA and ketamine. It was one of those stories so completely bonkers that it just had to be true. Now that utterly bonkers story has been made into the fantastic Hustlers. There are a lot of things that makes Hustlers work as well as it does but the most important thing is that the movie goes out of its way not to demonize sex workers. It shows these women as just that; women who are trying to get by any way they can.

While this is a movie about sisterhood and women trying to be out on their own it also doesn’t shy away from the fact that what they are doing is illegal. We are watching this from the point of view of the women so it is a little misconstrued but the way the movie is laid out, the story being told essentially as flashbacks to a journalist, means that sometimes an outside perspective does sneak in. The main theme is that, above all else, these women want freedom and they are living in a world where this is the best way they can see. It doesn’t make it right but it is their reality and this movie is a way of showing that.

The entire cast of Hustlers kills it from the moment go. Constance Wu brings a lot of heart to a woman that is just trying to get by and then gets caught up in the glamor of it all. However, she also isn’t shy about making sure we know that she is not innocent in all of this. Lili Reinhart looks and acts so much like a young Brittany Murphy that it’s scary. She captures that “in way over her head small-town girl” aesthetic while still reminding us that Anabelle is an adult making her own decisions. Keke Palmer is also great as a girl who keeps making poor decisions and you just want to shake her and remind her that this is a terrible idea. Meanwhile, the always fantastic Julia Stiles keeps popping in as the journalist hearing this whole story who sometimes gets this look like “is this real life” which is just fantastic.

"Hustlers" Review: A Fantastic and Empowering Story That Doesn't Demonize Sex WorkersHowever, it is Jennifer Lopez that steals every single scene that she is in. Lopez has always been a much more interesting actress than people have given her credit her since she decided to pursue music for a long time. Lopez comes back in a big way in Hustlers as a woman with a presence so magnetic you can see why so many people fell for her scheme. Whether she is on stage performing a stunning pole dancing routine or smugly trying to tell a businessman they drugged and robbed that he can’t exactly go to the copr or his business or wife will find out Lopez draws you in just as much as her victims. You believe her when she says that what they are doing isn’t wrong because the men they are robbing did so much worse. She is truly stunning in this role and all of the “best-supporting actress” talk is well and truly deserved.

Director and writer Lorene Scafaria manages two very impressive tasks. The first is how she makes sure that she does not demonize the sex workers in this movie which really must be said more than once. So many movies that focus on sex workers are tragedies while in Hustlers the only tragedy is the friendship between Wu’s Destine and Lopez’s Ramona. The fact that they are sex workers has nothing to do with that. The other is making sure that the movie is shot from a female point of view. The pole dancing sequences are beautifully shot but they aren’t sexless. Instead, they walk the line of being beautiful and being sexual instead of gratuitous.

Hustlers is a fantastic story of sisterhood and how to get by when the entire world is against you while not absolving anyone of guilt.

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About Kaitlyn Booth

Kaitlyn is the Editor-in-Chief at Bleeding Cool. She loves movies, television, comics, and political satire. She's a member of the UFCA and the GALECA. Feminist. Writer. Nerd. Follow her on twitter @katiesmovies and @safaiagem on instagram. She's also a co-host at The Nerd Dome Podcast. Listen to it at http://www.nerddomepodcast.com

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