Hustlers (2019) Film Review: Definitely Not an Erotic Film!


Jennifer Lopez’s comeback on the big screen is sweet in the Hustlers film, with an interesting narrative and full of touching messages. Adapted by writer-director Lorene Scafaria from a New York magazine article about deception by a group of dancers, from the perspective of Destiny telling her story to a New York Times journalist.

Lopez plays Ramona Vega, a dancer at a Manhattan strip club in 2007. There, she gets to know a rookie dancer named Destiny (Constance Wu) and teaches her everything she knows. Ramona not only teaches pole dancing, but also how to profit from the philanderers they meet at nightclubs.

“This game is cheating, and it doesn’t reward people who play by the rules,” explains Ramona when describing the scam she and Destiny ran. Aided by several other outsourced women, they drugged a rich man and drained all his credit cards.

The return of J-Lo and the arrival of a new debut
For her role in Selena (1997), she was nominated for a Golden Globe. Billboard included him in their list of the greatest dance club artists of all time. J-Lo also received two Grammy nominations. And through Hustlers, the diva has demonstrated her capacity during her nearly 30-year career in the entertainment industry.

The thriller story is quite interesting from beginning to end, punctuated by laughter that appears unexpectedly. All components come together in a story based on facts, and the rest of the cast is no exception. There are Cardi B and Lizzo who appear in their first film debut. Appearing in the first few scenes , Cardi looks amazing in some scenes that are quite laughable.

The dynamics of Destiny’s character deserve thumbs up. Played by Crazy Rich Asians star Constance Wu, Destiny tells the story of a new girl in the city’s entertainment world who learns pole dancing , loses someone she loves, and sacrifices for her child. In addition to Lopez, Wu is able to present a slick role and character dynamics in this film.

Perspectives on the gray world
Director Scafaria shows these characters through a new lens, providing another perspective on what happens in the real world. Instead of justifying their criminal acts, they describe what is often the motive behind this sometimes despised job; work for children, families, and to survive.

Broadly speaking, Hustlers is a film about sex work that rarely gets the spotlight; how capitalism turns the body and sex into tools for making money. The audience is not made to focus on the eroticism of sex, but makes it important as the core and theme of the story.

This film is able to provide a new point of view that maybe not all narratives are able to explain. It presents not only class struggles – from club dancers to stockbrokers on Wall Street – but also women’s struggles over gender differences.

An interesting aspect of the film Hustlers is how it captures the despair of the financial crisis that occurred in America in 2008 ago, attacking all classes of society and disrupting social life. Explaining the motive for the fraud committed by Ramona, Destiny and their gang members; to stay alive.

The two have one daughter, which Ramona explains, “Motherhood is a mental disorder.” When the economic crisis hit, these women took extreme steps to fight hard to earn money and raise their children. This is something that all mothers can do, including in Indonesia.

At the end of the film, Ramona asserts that “this whole city, this whole country, is one big strip club”. A provocative metaphor that explains how the moral, economic, and erotic transactions that take place in Uncle Sam’s country continue. Money kept flowing, and no one was satisfied with what he got.

Formulative but quite fresh
Based on a story published by Jessica Pressler (played by Julia Stiles, in this film her name is changed to Elizabeth) in a familiar story. The formula given is still the same as a fact-based crime film, but still fresh because it stars women.

Maybe this is what makes story development seem ordinary without a lot of fiction spices. The plot, which repeats itself over and over again, shows the deceptive work of the gang of women as tiring at some point. The film’s scene keeps shifting, in an interesting editing pattern, but it all ends in an unsatisfactory anti-climax.

I think this film is too scared to dive deeper into the characters in this film, even Ramona. There is only a glimpse of the background at the end of the film when he explains about his brother. Viewers are left with little or no understanding of the women in this film. Except for the narrative about Dorothy/Destiny as a single mother and an immigrant.

The mature theme and many scenes of shirtless women – considering the film is set in a strip club – make this film closed to children. Hustlers does not flatter eroticism in the plot, but the audience will be taken through a story from a different side. No need for morals or logic, just an open mind that all this can happen to anyone.

J-Lo’s return to Hollywood is indeed marked in a film that is sexy, erotic, but has many messages to convey. Much like Joker (2019) , this film shows that the world isn’t just black and white. Hustlers is able to offer an evocative narrative of the struggle of women, from various racial and cultural backgrounds, to survive in the midst of the harshness of American society.