A group of strippers come up with a scam to steal money from Wall Street bigwigs – we reveal in ours how Lorene Scafaria turned this true story into a powerful film HUSTLERS (2019) -Criticism.
Dorothy gets lessons from Ramona.
The plot summary
New York in 2007: Dorothy (Constance Wu), better known by her stripper name Destiny, works at the Moves strip club, where she only earns small amounts of money – barely enough to support herself and her grandmother. One night, Destiny decides to approach her colleague Ramona (Jennifer Lopez), who dances great and is showered with bills by customers. Ramona loves taking Destiny under her wing and not only teaches her better moves on the pole, but also teaches her how to tackle what type of clients. Ramona’s lessons pay off: Even if their job isn’t respected and they have to deal with some sleazy guys, the brighter strippers at Moves can have a good time – not least thanks to the rich banker clientele. But then the economic crisis hits and the strippers only make small amounts of money. Ramona and Co. therefore try to make big money with ingenuity and questionable methods…
Hustlers Movie Meaning & ending
Director Lorene Scafaria stands for sensitive, tragicomic material: her directorial debut “Looking for a Friend for the End of the World” from 2012 shows Steve Carell and Keira Knightley in a world that is doomed, as they do in the remaining days Looking for closeness, friendship and peace of mind. In 2015, Scafaria submitted “With the best of intentions” . A drama about a mother who constantly tries to interfere in the life of her adult daughter, which is why she keeps her distance and therefore does not notice how her mother finds a late, new love. With nuances in a minor key and some hard-placed dialogue jokes, the film starring Susan Sarandon, Rose Byrne, JK Simmons and Cecily Strong was one of the most charming cinema productions of their year. Scafaria’s latest film now seems, on the surface, to be completely out of this series: The crime dramedy “Hustlers”, based on true events, tells the story of a group of strippers who exploit financial sharks. This should give many film fans expectations of a raucous, boozy film. But “Hustlers” is not a hip-hop or R’n’B music video turned into a film, but has two pillars that place it somewhere else entirely: On the one hand, there is the captivating story of fraud, with which Scafaria criticizes in a clever and dramatic way social judgments and economic misalignments. And on the other hand, the melancholic mainstay of “Hustlers” is the tender and vulnerable friendship between the reserved Destiny and the stripper Ramona, who almost always displays a radiant “I own the world” attitude.
A friendship develops between Ramona (Jennifer Lopez) and Dorothy (Constance Wu) that is on shaky ground.
Director and author Scafaria therefore begins her film with a frame narrative: We see Dorothy alias Destiny dressed in bright white in a living room that is equally sterile and bright, but also sumptuously spacious, where she is giving an interview. So no matter what scams she confesses to later in the film, we know she’ll get away with it. The first open question is how we should approach this. Once these thoughts have been triggered, we look back together with Destiny to the year 2007. The internal narrative of “Hustlers” consequently begins with us observing Destiny and she ultimately ends her almost aimless stroll through the Moves club by observing Ramona. Thus, Scafaria immediately sets several course for “Hustlers”: Through this sequence she signals very clearly that she is neither interested in glorifying strip clubs nor in rehashing the equally frequently used argument that stripping is a profession that is at the lowest dregs of the social pecking order. Instead, Scafaria paints an ambiguous, nuanced picture of a treacherous and unenviable profession that we should nevertheless show more respect for.
Destiny encounters disgusting, rumbling customers and wanders through the club with a shy, shuffling, uncomfortable posture, but we see early on that it is a tricky and quite artistic job that you first have to master. Instead of attacking Destiny and her colleagues cinematically, Scafaria shows what’s happening in Moves from Destiny’s perspective. When the confident, experienced and talented Ramona appears, Scafaria and cinematographer Todd Banhazl don’t focus on Lopez’s body (although they leave no doubt that she is enviably fit) but rather let us take in how breathtakingly good Ramona is dances and how she wraps the entire room around her finger with her skills and physical presence. And so it immediately becomes clear non-verbally why Destiny then seeks to be close to Ramona – who in Destiny’s situation wouldn’t want to be taught by this power woman? Just as intuitively, it becomes clear shortly afterwards why Ramona takes on Destiny, because when Destiny approaches her, she is resting in a self-absorbed (and deserved!) showing off pose. Dressed in a huge fur coat. Ramona’s outfit, her posture and the hard, heavy tone of voice with which Jennifer Lopez makes Ramona’s courteous comments in this scene say unmistakably: Ramona likes it when she pleases, and she is patronizing as long as there is enough shine for her – there can be You then have to endure extra effort and teach a stripper chick to fly.
Mercedes (Keke Palmer) and Annabelle (Lili Reinhart) at work.
This physical expressiveness also runs through the rest of the film: While many films about organized crime usually place a large part of their message in the dialogue and great acting performances often come in the form of monologues delivered with gripping emphasis, in “Hustlers” the casually presented body language prevails. The differences in Lopez’s gestures alone are fascinating: As larger-than-life as Ramona’s charisma may be in her opening scene, she is much more reserved and banal when she teaches Destiny on the pole shortly afterwards – and yet she remains the most fabulous, dominant one in this training scene Woman in the room. And even outside the club, the way Lopez carries himself as Ramona speaks volumes, without Scafaria’s entertaining, everyday dialogue ever rubbing it in your face: When Ramona and Destiny go shopping, it becomes clear exactly that Ramona takes great pleasure in knocking money over the head with her colleague, but as soon as Destiny brings up serious concerns, an insecure reserve flows into Ramona’s facial expressions and gestures: Ramona doesn’t want the kind of friend with whom you really share everything be for Destiny, even if Ramona doesn’t have the heart to clearly distance herself.
Lead actress and main identification figure Constance Wu (“Crazy Rich”) plays just as strong as Lopez (“The Boy Next Door” ) , even if she has the less conspicuous part as Destiny: there is an underlying insecurity in her looks, even in the heyday of the move a doubt about revealing herself in front of strange men – and yet there is a clear progression in Destiny’s self-confidence and dancing ability. It is believable that this self-sufficient woman, looking for support, comes to terms with this job. Not least because Ramona becomes something of a pretentious but well-meaning big sister to her. This is commented on by the sporadic sequences in which the frame narrative returns: Buttoned up, emphatically ladylike and with a strict, straight posture, telling stories about the past, Dorothy draws a visible line in the interview between herself in the now and in the then, although she still has many things She can’t resist mischievous grins or longing looks back without having to express these emotional expressions.
This appreciation of acting detail is also evident in smaller parts, such as Lili Reinhart (“The Good Neighbor”): When the strippers start with their fraud act and therefore have to repeatedly pretend that they drink as many shots as their victims, Reinhart’s young, inexperienced Annabelle is significantly more clumsy than Ramona, for whom it is the easiest exercise in the world. It’s little subtleties like this that not only give “Hustlers” credibility, but also provide a few smiles in the later, more dramatic third, thus preventing the film, which began as entertaining and full of energy, from suddenly collapsing completely.
Above all, Scafaria creates an important emotional bond with its central characters: The Moves strippers may also have their shriller, louder moments (such as when they try to outdo each other with good news or rude sayings in the Moves dressing room), but “Hustlers” shows that such excited moments, as we know them from other films, are only a small part of being a stripper. Scafaria’s characters are professionals with varying degrees of satisfaction with their jobs; they are provocative dancers who just want to be left alone after work, and who compensate for the degrading look they often receive by spending money, Buy status symbols that are left over after necessary expenses and financial injections for family members. Even before they become fraudsters, the ladies from Moves don’t always make the best decisions, but Scafaria allows us to get so close and sober into their lives, and the actresses play them so differentiated and lively that their behavior (before the fraud) is consistently understandable and you “fraternize” with them: They are hard-working people who are misunderstood as shabby because honest, literally physical work is generally condemned more harshly by society than questionable or even illegal speculation with huge sums of money.
For Dorothy, the club quickly becomes like a second home.
But “Hustlers” gives its stripers respect, and therefore it is understandable (but not forgivable) when Ramona swaps honest stripping for a clever trick after the financial bubble bursts. And since Scafaria shows Destiny’s downward spiral in the economic crisis in a scene that is very powerful but does not allow for any kind of misery voyeurism (and thus maintains decorum in terms of staging), it is also understandable why this more cautious, thoughtful character gets on her friend’s cheating train. Scafaria then performs a difficult tonal dance that she masters flawlessly: the popular figures from the beginning of the film strike back and take what they have from the men who have driven not only the USA, but the entire world, into an economic crisis they think they are entitled to it. At first it has something of a Robin Hood scam, as the cheating strippers not only enrich themselves, but also the rest of their battered colleagues from the Moves.
Diamond (Cardi B) is an extremely extroverted colleague of Dorothy and her friends.
Scafaria, however, quickly raises doubts about this thinking: She stages some of the actions of Ramona and Co. quickly and pointedly, but from the beginning of the scam she also shows dramatic consequences and allows the morally upright characters to express justified, well-formulated doubts. This relationship gradually changes: the fun in the fraudulent antics dries up, the question arises more and more whether the strippers will become what they were previously condemned – and the misadventures get out of hand, escalating from slapstick to dangerous situations the protagonists have to save themselves with skill and determination. Scafaria also marks this change by creating a greater stylistic distance from the internal narrative: for a long time it was only interrupted sporadically for the interview situation, but towards the end the director increases the timing of such elements. Staging ideas such as acoustically alienated narrative comments or dialogues, an emotionally resonant scene in complete silence, as well as arguments between Dorothy and her interviewer (Julia Stiles), allow the audience to distance themselves from the characters who were previously seen as sympathetic. Here it pays off twice over how much Scafaria has previously built up a respectful closeness to them – seeing them now make serious wrong decisions and develop greed is more disappointing and causes a more drastic reaction than if Scafaria had previously invested less time in identification elements.
Of course, we don’t want to reveal at this point what “Hustlers” ultimately does with this height of fall and how far Destiny, Ramona and Co. will take it. But we can say that Scafaria implements these moments of truth with humor and tension, without losing sight of the melancholic element of her film: “Hustlers” is not just a reckoning with the men who burst the financial bubble, as well with the element of greed that clouds the conscience, but also the sensitively played story of a lost loner who temporarily has the illusion of control and security in her life. The fact that Scafaria accompanies “Hustlers” primarily with club hits that have a strict, heavy undertone and Chopin fits in perfectly. This also applies to the mostly subtly underexposed image (which makes the lights in Moves and the glamor of luxury apartments or luxury shops particularly bright) and Todd Banhazl’s semi-documentary, gliding camera work, which places us directly in the action, but denies the theatricality of celebrating the clever fraudsters. Or should we put it this way: “Hustlers” allows the performers it tells about to just be, instead of still putting on a show through their ups and downs.
When and where does the two women’s friendship end?
Conclusion: With “Hustlers” Lorene Scafaria has delivered a real stroke of genius: This stripper film is clever, an exciting economic and social commentary and behind all the posturing, lies and deceit lies the sensitively played story of a sensitive friendship. Absolute cinema recommendation.
“Hustlers” can be seen in USA cinemas from November 28th.