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‘The Hustlers’ review: It’s all about the female gaze

Lili Reinhart, Jennifer Lopez, Keke Palmer, and Constance Wu in a scene from "Hustlers"   | Photo Credit: AP

The Hustlers is an example of how the female gaze can be positively transformational when it comes to cinema. Narrated in the form of a testimonial by a former New York stripper Dorothy/Destiny (Constance Wu) in an interview to a journalist working on the story about her mentor, Ramona Vega (Jennifer Lopez), it could have easily become a downbeat tale of women allowing volitional self-exploitation in the face of deprivation and lack of financial options and choices. Or it could have been yet another titillating show, objectifying women and pandering to male desire and pleasure.

The Hustlers
  • Director: Lorene Scafaria
  • Starring: Constance Wu, Jennifer Lopez, Julia Stiles
  • Storyline: Based on the New York magazine article The Hustlers at Scores, the film is about a team of strippers who drug and dupe the loaded Wall Street men off their money
  • Run time: 110 minutes

However, far from its inherent exploitative potential, through the peephole of Lorene Scafaria’s camera, a world pirouetting on and catering to the male gratification, becomes a joyous playground for women’s empowerment. This, while never letting go of the sexuality and oomph. So you have a pole dance set piece that would beat any and every other in the history of cinema, performed with eye-popping agility and utter lack of inhibition by Lopez. But all of it is captured with a passing casualness than dwelling on things long and deep enough to milk them of the voyeurism. And there are rules to the rummy game too: stripping may not preclude sex. It’s ultimately about women owning their bodies than catering to men.

Based on the New York magazine article The Hustlers at Scores, the film is about a team of strippers, badly hit by the financial crisis of 2008, who decide to find way out and keep their world going by drugging and duping the loaded Wall Street men off their money.

Not only does Scafaria turn around the essentially male “heist film” genre but also subverts the essential power play in the world driven by money and sex. Much as it is about their bodies, it is about women’s financial independence as well. There is a guilt-free, non-judgmental way of looking at the extent to which they can go to make money. Yes it is all dubious, distorted and outrageous but there is a curious energy, fun and joy in seeing them get the better of men.

Crime leads to its own consequences and the third act does become sloppy and scattered in trying to tie all the loose ends. But Lopez is delightfully effortless on the pole and as the leader of the pack, an expert at figuring out men, giving Dorothy lessons in how to recognise various kinds of customers so as to deploy them better for her own good. Towards the end a political statement is also shoved in: that the whole country is a strip club where some are paying and others are getting paid to dance. You would do well to pay and see Lopez, Wu and co dance away with sheer abandonment and fun. But chances are that you could well end up finding yourself dancing to their tunes.

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Printable version | Jun 12, 2021 11:56:09 AM |

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