When a group of former strippers start drugging clients to rob then, will they be able to stay afloat despite themselves?
At first seeing the trailer for Hustlers, I thought it looked fun but kinda throwaway. Then I realized it was written and directed by Lorene Scafaria (Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World), I was all in. This true-life adaptation sees JLo and Constance Wu form a tight bond while making money the old fashioned way: drugging and stealing from rich guys. The camera loves everything about this movie from the dancing to the robbing to the soft comfortable family time. If there is a complaint to be had, it's that the message behind the film is muddled with the central family theme being overdone. Sometimes how you say something is more important than what you say, though.
Run out to the theater to support well made movies like Hustlers from great writer/directors. Here's my notes and what I was thinking when I wrote them:
New girl follow
Mostly this was just a reminder of the really well done one shot following Dorothy through the club. It introduces us to a lot of the people and the space, then it cuts to different interactions she has during the night. Super well done.
Money make you horny
Oh heavens. Just after JLo's Ramona gets off stage, a pile of money in her hand, she asks Dorothy if money makes her horny. Nothing I can say about the proceeding dance or the question will make me seem like a human being worthy of seeing my grandma in the afterlife.
All the ones
When they're on a shopping trip at a high end store, they pay in all ones. It's a good joke, but c'mon, even strippers know to go to the bank and get more reasonable bills.
I won't lie: I kept forgetting their names.
Everybody I talked to about Hustlers asked how Cardi B was, but I'm super old and have no idea who she was or noticed how she acted. Which I guess makes her pretty good because the cast all around felt seamless. The celebrity cameo I loved was Usher, coming to the club and all the girls freaking out that he was there. It was just so fun seeing all these jaded women get star struck and occupying the stage all at once.
Baby and other worries
The part of the movie where real life set in. Dorothy gets pregnant, leaves the club, gets divorced, and loses everything. It's really tough to see our fun party girl become desperate and alone with a kid to take care of. The dependency on others for money is not hammered but well displayed.
Going back to the club after the recession hit is depressing as fuck. Nobody's there, all the girls are lackluster in their performance (most of them Russian pros), and seeing Dorothy try to operate here is soul crushing. It's when she comes out of the room and realizes the guy paid her for "extra service" in twenties instead of hundreds when we see how low things are.
Crime pays, fun
Ramona's plan and the movie in general kick into high gear here. Let's face it, this is a companion piece to Goodfellas and right at this point, the women are having a great time breaking bad. The money is coming in, things are being bought, and lifestyles change for the rich and fabulous.
Laugh out loud when Dorothy and Ramona try to perfect the drug cocktail of MDMA and Ketamine, the mix to keep boozing rich guys on their feet, feeling good, but out long enough for their credit cards to clear. When the two of them try the first batch in Ramona's kitchen, the smash cut to them in a cuddle puddle on the floor is hilarious. I haven't had this much fun watching women cook since my former roommates once tried to put out a grease fire with powdered sugar.
More confident in the telling
As the story goes and Dorothy remembers why she loved Ramona, the scenes in present day become more open. Present day Dorothy started a little meak, almost shy and reserved about being judged for telling her salacious story. At this point, remembering the good times, it's great to see the actress and the director allow Dorothy to be more bold and proud of what they did.
A high point as all the girls party with their families at the holidays. A lot of movies lately are dealing with "la familia" and all that, but this is the first one I really thought cared about each other. They buy each other presents, hang out, tell jokes, and laugh. Hell, they bring their families together under one roof! It's delightful.
I don't remember what this referred to, but isn't it nice to see Julia Styles again? I fucking missed her.
Still not sure what this is dealing with. Could be Ramona hiring the new girl, but that's a bit down the road to cause a downfall. Might be the sad sack guy they ripped off who went to the police, but that's not that weird. Shrug.
Commercial hospital better
There's a scene the trailer did better than the movie. They have a guy that's hurt, so they take him to the hospital and dump him out. Dorothy screams that he's her husband until help arrives and suddenly stops as they begin to perform medicine. The movie scene is a little more drawn out and less punchy than the trailer, giving the joke too much time to breathe. Still funny, but side by side the quick cut is better.
One really bad day
Here's the real downfall: Dorothy's really no good bad day. First they call her about the hurt dude and get him to the hospital. Then her kid is late for school, dropped off by a mom covered in blood. Then she gets home to find her grandma dead. Just a domino of pain that really hit home just this side of absurd. Bad things really do happen one after another sometimes, and it's a pretty good mark for this film that this doesn't seem impossible.
Look, I know most of the point of crime is an inability to plan for the long term future in any legal way. Still, if you're making tons upon tons of cash, put a lawyer on retainer. You'll thank him for it.
You gotta love a movie that when the credits start to roll (or right at the end), the cast gets together and dances. Just a good little message saying, "hey, we know we got a little heavy, but it's all going to be good."