Culture

“A True Movie For Our Era”: The First Reviews For ‘Hustlers’ Are In

Critics are already hyping J-Lo's performance as award-winning.

Cardi B in Hustlers

Hustlers, the stripper heist film based off a true story starring J-Lo, Cardi B, Lizzo and Constance Wu, has made its debut at TIFF. Judging by early reviews, it’s much more than the summer blockbuster it’s been hyped as, being called “one of the best movies about American money in recent memory.”

Hustlers is based off a viral New York Magazine article from 2015 by Jessica Pressler, which told the story of several New York strippers who, in the throes of the 2008 financial crisis, turned to drugging wealthy clients and using their credit cards.

The film, directed and adapted by Lorene Scafaria (The MeddlerRicki and the Flash), centres on Dorothy, a single mother who returns to stripping after struggling to find work in post GFC climate. Frustrated by the lack of cash flow, she partners with Ramona (Lopez), who teaches her how to make a bit more money.

Not surprisingly, it’s a lot of fun — especially the cameos by Lizzo and Cardi B — but the reviews highlight how well the film balances out the weight of the film’s context.

“We feel the party of the film, but also never forget its dire gravity,” writes Vanity Fair‘s Richard Lawson. “There’s a stunning (and surprising?) emotional core burning at the centre of the film, like a sparking fuel cell. Scafaria jaunts forward and backward in time, lays out exposition and detail in a clamouring patter. Things still feel controlled, though; there’s a purpose and method to this music-filled madness. For how fun Hustlers is, it also knows its own darkness.”

The Hollywood Reporter praised the film’s depiction of stripping and sex work, saying it “somersaults past any stigma” by “emphasising how the main characters are run-of-the-mill American workers regardless of their particular job.”

“It’s not about convincing anyone that stripping is empowering or disempowering, or that hustling is or isn’t wrong; it’s about all the gray areas in between.”

The Guardian‘s Benjamin Lee agrees, writing that “Scafaria views the strip club like any other workplace, filled with internal politics and an ever-changing hierarchy of power. It can be intimidating for sure, but there’s also a genuine camaraderie between a group of women who realise that combining their talents makes them that much more powerful.”

And while The Guardian say the film loses steam towards the end (“Often the mechanics of true crime tales aren’t quite cinematic enough and as the plan falls apart, Scafaria’s film almost follows.”), but returns to its height for the finale.

Across all reviews, the cast — which also includes Keke Palmer, Riverdale‘s Lili Reinhart, and, Julia Stiles as a reported based off Pressler — are praised, though J-Lo’s performance has been celebrated as award-worthy.

“The film really, truly belongs to J-Lo,” writes The Guardian. “Blessed with one of the most memorable entrances in recent cinema history (pole-dancing to Fiona Apple’s ‘Criminal’ and met with a swarm of money), Lopez slinks through Hustlers with a deceptive ease, as in control of the film as her character is of her situation. It’s the sort of role that only a true movie star could pull off, so much of it reliant on a rare, intoxicating magnetism.”

Vanity Fair sums up the consensus: “Yes, it is the cool stripper-robber movie with the awesome cast. But it’s also a true movie for our era, teeming with the confusion and yearning and risk of life right now.”

Hustlers is out in Australia October 10, watch the trailer below.