In ‘Hustlers,’ Jennifer Lopez steals money, and the show
“Hustlers” is, in itself, a hustle. It looks like a flashy, glamorous movie about strippers — all sparkle and skin and high-heels. And it is that. But the fleshy, dazzling surface of “Hustlers,” written and directed by Lorene Scafaria, cloaks an empowering feminist tale about a sisterhood of women who turn the tables on a male-controlled industry.
“People go into the movie expecting something because stripper is a word that has so many connotations and preconceived notions,” says Scafaria. “That’s the hustle. Hopefully we’re subverting expectations but subverting them in a way that has some nuance to it.”
“Hustlers,” opening in theaters this week following its well-received premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, stars Jennifer Lopez as Ramona, a veteran stripper in New York who takes a young dancer (Constance Wu) under her wing. Ramona organizes a scam to drug Wall Street guys and max out their credit cards. It’s loosely based on a true story, chronicled in a 2015 New York magazine article, and set in the years after the 2008 financial crisis — when far greater, white-collar swindles went largely unprosecuted.
The transactional world of strip clubs — so commonly depicted from a male viewpoint in movies — has seldom been viewed through a female gaze like it is in “Hustlers.” It’s a microcosm, Lopez says, of America.
“It’s all a strip club,” says Lopez. “You have people tossing the money and people doing the dance. “This film says something about the inequality that we’ve been yelling and screaming about for a while now and kind of making some headway,” she adds. “And I hate saying that so broadly because I love men and there are so many great, supportive beautiful men in the world. But there is this thing that exists that we can’t deny.”
“Hustlers” might be Lopez’s most radiant and regal screen performance, too, since Steven Soderbergh’s 1998 film “Out of Sight.” As Ramona, she’s the matriarchal ringleader of an improvised family of strippers-turned-hustlers. (Cardi B makes her big-screen debut, alongside a cast including Lili Reinhart and Keke Palmer.)
Lopez is, like Ramona, an entrepreneur from the Bronx. She instantly identified with the role, even if the stripping scenes gave her pause.