Hustlers

We continue the latest season of Ten Movies, focusing on the cinematic works of Jennifer Lopez. So far it’s been a tough slog of mostly forgettable fare – plus a couple Grade-A stinkers – but this week we were delighted to watch ‘Hustlers’, a 2019 film written and directed by Lorene Scafaria about some ladies who take their clothes off for money and become friends and then rob a bunch of dudes.

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Jennifer Lopez plays Ramona, a larger-than-life queen among strippers who takes Destiny, played by Constance Wu, and a host of others under her wing. In the wake of the 2008 recession, all the Wall Street money dries up and life gets tough for a hard-working exotic dancer. So the ladies resort to some increasingly ethically ambiguous approaches to revenue generation, first luring dudes back to clubs where they scam them out of money, then drugging them, then skipping the clubs altogether and just rolling the marks at their lavish penthouse apartments. Eventually, of course, karma has its due and everyone goes to jail or whatever.

Here at Ten Movies, we love nothing better than interrogating the sociopolitics of popular works of cinema (wait, is that why we don’t have any listeners?) and ‘Hustlers’ has a sharp but skewed viewpoint. On the one hand, the movie is clear about the realities of class warfare in modern-day America, and is firmly on the side of the working girls. The dudes who get robbed, almost to a man, are hedge fund investor-types who only leach from society, like remoras, and they deserve the cruel fate that Jennifer Lopez and her friends visit upon them.

On the other hand, the characters – and the movie – celebrate materialism and excess. There’s a lot of Louboutin shoes and $6,000 handbags and chinchilla fur coats and while the film convincingly portrays the main characters as working-class people whose upbringings have given them a healthy fear of precarity, the overall sense is that of transferring ill-gotten wealth from selfish people in suits to more-sympathetic but still selfish people in chinchilla fur coats.

But it was a fun, well-made movie and Jennifer Lopez is extremely great in it. Magnetic, amoral, driven and doing the craziest pole dances you can possibly imagine. The fact that she didn’t get nominated for an Oscar is straight-up criminal.

Anyway, it’s a strong recommendation from Brian and Hemal, possibly the first from this season, so fire it up over Thanksgiving, then download this episode to see if we agree.