By Georgia De Souza
Some get hustled, and some know how to hustle, but for the leading ladies of this film, they fall under both brackets as Lorene Scafaria captures the true story behind Jessica Presser’s “The Hustlers at Scores.” Effortlessly crafting the vivaciously strong female cast members, Scafaria was able to create a beautiful relationship between Ramona (Jennifer Lopez) and Destiny (Constance Wu), showcasing the power, toxicity and trust within female relationships; but underneath it all, “Hustlers” is a film about the platonic and undying love between the two leading women.
“Hustlers” follow Destiny [aka Dorothy] as she stands mesmerised watching Ramona perform for the clients of the strip club which she, herself, is failing at doing. As Ramona teaches the new girl on her techniques for reading the clients: what they want, what they need and what they will do, they partner up which leads them to fall slowly into a trap of becoming obsessed with getting money off these men.
The financial crisis of 2008 which affected many of the businessmen from Wall Street – who also invested in the strip club causes repercussions for the club. The lack of business leads Ramona and Destiny into leaving separately, however, they both inevitably find themselves making their way back to the strip club and start to hatch a plan with two other girls Mercedes (Keke Palmer) and Annabelle (Lili Reinhart) to drug men into having a ‘great night’ with them; $5k later, the men remember nothing and the hustlers come out with money for new red-bottomed boots.
But, with power comes greed, and the hustlers are no exception. They invite more women into their ‘cult’ and as a result, things start falling out of place.
“At a first glance, the film may seem nothing more than about strippers running a con, but when opened up, it is far more than that – rather a commentary on women in the workplace.”
Being set in a strip club, one could argue that it places “Hustlers” as a film in which women are living in a man’s world, however, this is far from the truth. It is in fact the opposite. The manipulation the men fall under showcases how it is they who are powerless to the determination and force of women in control. Scafaria ensures that the narratives and sisterhood of the film are held together through the relationship between the leading female characters.
Not only does Scafaria showcase female empowerment through relationships, but she also ensures in diminishing the negativity of pitting women against each other – a refreshing look on female narratives in today’s industry. At a first glance, the film may seem nothing more than about strippers running a con, but when opened up, it is far more than that – rather a commentary on women in the workplace, their conflict between work and motherhood, ultimately diminishing the negative stigma often attached to strippers.
“Even until the very end, the women showed how much they loved and supported each other. With their many trials and tribulations, we as an audience respect the loyalty that they share.”
When we are first properly introduced to Ramona, Scafaria steers away from a sense of competition between her and the other girls to ensure the relationship for the main leads is strong and true. As Destiny plucks the courage to approach the seductress, Ramona sitting cooly in her big fur jacket, leaning back smoking, the epitome of the head girl image; it is not uncommon to think that Destiny’s ambition is to eventually outshine the head girl.
However Ramona instead welcomes her warmly into her coat – and the beginning of their sisterhood is ignited. From this simple act in conjunction with the many trials and tribulations the women face, sometimes against each other – the film sggests that these two characters are simply two abandoned women who fall in a platonic sense of love with each other. The drive they share is a force to be reckoned with; their pure determination to achieve what they thought would be a success – a point at which Destiny hoped she could have enough money to stop.
With such big names hitting the screen, including appearances from Cardi B and Lizzo, it was truly refreshing to see a film not only using only female main leads, but also focusing on their relationships in a way which barely pitted them against each other, but instead glorified the support they had for each other. Even until the very end, the women showed how much they loved and supported each other. With their many trials and tribulations, we as an audience respect the loyalty that they share. And although their plans did not run as smoothly as the women wanted them to, “Hustlers” reminds us that only a true sisterhood will hustle you out of any situation.
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