Sunday, December 15, 2019

Movie with Abe: Hustlers

Directed by Lorene Scafaria
Released September 13, 2019

Almost every job offers some opportunity for corruption. Those who take advantage of blind spots in their industries or small privileges that will go unnoticed by their employers may perceive what they’re doing as a victimless crime, or even as something acceptable given the amount of time or effort that they exert for which they’re not appropriately compensated. It’s a slippery slope, since a small success often leads to greater designs, which tend to eventually attract more attention and result in unfortunate consequences for the perpetrators. Even when caught with incontrovertible proof of wrongdoing, they might still defend their actions as perfectly legitimate even if they’re not entirely legal.

Destiny (Constance Wu) is a stripper in New York City in 2007 frustrated with the minimal amount of money she makes coupled with the degrading nature of her work. When she meets Ramona (Jennifer Lopez), she is astounded by her style and the life of luxury she appears to live. Determined to take back some of their dignity and take home more since they’re the ones doing the work, Destiny and Ramona build an operation with Mercedes (Keke Palmer) and Annabelle (Lili Reinhart) to find potential clients, drug them, and run up their credit limits, something they imagine they’ll be able to get away with by assuring their concerned victims that they were having a good time even if they don’t quite remember everything.

This film is based on a December 2015 article in New York Magazine about strippers who stole from their clients, taking a bit back for themselves. It’s a familiar tale applicable and adaptable to a number of different types of work, and while it plays out somewhat predictably, the journey there is fully entertaining and enthralling. As a far more presentable and polished Destiny recounts her many misdeeds – and sympathetic motivations – to a reporter (Julia Stiles), the glamor and adventure she lived is presented, with her sheepish, disgruntled character transformed into a high-fashion kingpin, exerting what power she has over anyone she sees in her sights. Eventually, seeing the consequences of her actions catches up with her, as evidenced by the conciliatory way in which she frames her own narrative.

Wu follows up an endearing turn in “Crazy Rich Asians” with a considerably edgier one here, and while she may be the right fit for the part, she can’t compare to Lopez, who dominates every scene she’s in by completely owning the role of Ramona. She’s headed for her first Oscar nomination, and the way that she walks and chews scenery contributes greatly to this film working. The costumes are formidable, and the film has a stylish beat that keeps its expected plot going and its audience engaged. Like its signature scheme, it’s far from foolproof or perfect, but it’s quite a thrill when everything is going right.


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