Release Date: September 13, 2019
Director: Lorene Scafaria
Starring: Constance Wu, Jennifer Lopez, Julia Stiles, Keke Palmer, Lili Reinhart, Lizzo, and Cardi B
Review: Ready for a twist? Hustlers, a movie featuring Jennifer Lopez, Keke Palmer, and Cardi B, is actually pretty damn good. I know. I didn’t want to believe it either. I saw the Rotten Tomatoes score and still went in with my arms crossed. There is absolutely no way, right? Nope. It’s like a female GoodFellas with fantastic performances and some really interesting directorial decisions.
Alright. First things first, Jennifer Lopez kills it in this movie. I’ve said before that I think she’s massively underrated and she really shows that here. I thought she was pretty good early on, but she shines brightly in the second half. The moment that everything starts falling apart around her, she shows a lot of genuine, heartbreaking emotions. I would not be surprised if she were to get nominated for an Academy Award this year. It was that good. I don’t think she’ll win, but a nomination definitely seems likely. Especially since the Oscars love to prop up musicians when they give good performances.
I also thought the rest of the cast did a really good job. I only really knew Constance Wu from Crazy Rich Asians before this, but I’m slowly starting to become a fan. She is probably the most human character in the movie. We get into this world and experience it through her character and she serves as a good proxy. Likewise, we get good performances out of Keke Palmer and Lili Reinhart. They don’t necessarily have as much acting to do, but they portray likeable characters who you don’t want to see anything bad happen to them. I thought Reinhart in particular was really sympathetic and had one of the better running gags in the movie. And, Cardi B is barely in it despite being pushed in the marketing, which was a relief for me. She really would’ve had to win me over, because I am not a fan. I think she has a perfect personality for what she’s trying to do, but I’m not sure if that would carry over to acting. But, the rest of the performances were super strong.
It’s not just strong performances that carry this movie either. Lorene Scafaria, the director, did a lot of interesting new things I’ve never seen before. There are a lot of neat camera tricks and sound design I wouldn’t have expected from a movie like this. For example, there’s one scene where the scene is recorded on tape. The audio for this scene comes in a bit wonky. At first, I was like “why does everything sound weird?” Then, I realized! We’re listening to the tape! That’s so cool. There are a few other things like that but I don’t want to spoil much. It’s the little things like that which really makes a director stand out and I will for sure be keeping an eye out for her other movies.
What I said about Jennifer Lopez’s performance is true for this whole movie in general though. It starts off pretty standard and then gradually gets better as the plot unfolds. In a movie about strippers creating a way to scam rich men, I’m not sure we needed so much about our main character learning how to strip. We get to almost the halfway point before the first con even goes down. I’m not saying that I didn’t enjoy myself, but it did feel a bit slow. Then, when the scams start, it picks up a bit. Though, again, I was kind of looking at the time just waiting for the other shoe to drop. It’s not that it’s not interesting. It is. Only, we’ve seen this story before. Maybe not this exact one (the stripper element is new), but the beats are there. They discover a way to cheat people. They live large for a bit. Then, everything falls apart. It’s GoodFellas. It’s The Wolf of Wall Street. It’s Breaking Bad. It’s a lot of different things. I enjoyed it, but I’m not down to throw it in the Best Movies of the Year category like some critics are.
Maybe this is doing so well with critics because The Kitchen did so poorly and they’re aiming for the same thing? I don’t know. Just a thought.
TL;DR: While I think it’s too full of cliches to be one of the best movies of the year, Hustlers is a really fun, generic crime movie with a fantastic performance from Jennifer Lopez.
Score: 4 Stars (I liked it.)