[Extreme P.A. announcer voice] And next up on the stage we have Hustlers, Lorene Scafaria’s film about a group of strippers—led by Jennifer Lopez and Constance Wu—who start scamming Wall Street types after the financial collapse of 2008. It’s empowering and endlessly fun, and it also features the greatest J.Lo performance in years. Here’s what the staff of The Ringer thought about it.
1. What is your tweet-length review of Hustlers?
Charlotte Goddu: A labor movie all dressed up in a bandage dress, 7-inch heels, and a necklace that spells out “SEXY” in rhinestones.
Kate Knibbs: I enjoyed watching future Oscar nominee Jennifer Lopez on the big screen.
Alison Herman: This is the movie Ocean’s 8 was trying to be, and Widows could’ve been in a more just world with savvier marketing departments. (I say this as a devoted member of Widows Hive and the Ocean’s 8 Was Flawed But Underrated Club.)
My review of Hustlers: It is odd to watch Jennifer Lopez and not be able to look just to her right and see ARod filming her with his iPhone.— Andrew Gruttadaro (@andrewgrutt) September 11, 2019
Amelia Wedemeyer: IF YOU DON’T SEE HUSTLERS IN THEATERS, YOU’RE A MISOGYNIST.
2. What was the best moment of the movie?
Gruttadaro: That shot of Jennifer Lopez lounging on a New York City rooftop in a glorious fur coat, and that “Love in This Club” sequence—literally featuring Usher—when J.Lo asks Usher what his name is and he bashfully replies, “It’s Usher, baby.”
Goddu: J.Lo’s asking Usher what his name is—especially because she’s Jennifer Freaking Lopez! Her dissolving in self-satisfied laughter when he tells her caps the joyful, frenetic first section of the movie.
Halliwell: “What’s your name?” “Usher, baby.” Unbelievable!
Knibbs: When future Oscar nominee Jennifer Lopez did her big dance number to Fiona Apple’s “Criminal.”
Herman: It’s clearly the “Criminal” routine, but I should note my entire theater busted out laughing—in a delighted, “I can’t believe this is happening and I get to witness it” way—at the shot of a resplendent J.Lo having a roof cigarette in a fur coat immediately after.
Wedemeyer: Honestly, I was riveted by every single second of this movie.
3. What was your least favorite part of the film?
Wedemeyer: I didn’t have one!
Goddu: I didn’t find Dawn as believable a character as most of the other women in the film. Her out-of-control demeanor was supposed to demonstrate addiction, but it didn’t quite track for me. She seemed more like a plot-device caricature than most of the other characters.
Halliwell: Apologies to Lili Reinhart, who was otherwise delightful, but I’m anti-vomit on-screen as a rule.
Gruttadaro: I didn’t love the “subject retelling the story to a journalist” structuring? In a lot of places I wanted to see what Constance Wu’s character was talking about, and I wonder what a completely linear story would’ve looked like.
Herman: The movie couldn’t seem to decide how it felt about its leads. In the present tense, Destiny is an unrepentant airhead; in flashbacks, she’s the movie’s moral center. In the present tense, Ramona is the one who still loves her crew; in flashbacks, she’s the one whose greed and carelessness got them caught. I think Scafaria is going for a commentary on unreliable narrators, but the characterization comes off choppy, like an awkward synthesis of multiple drafts.
Knibbs: I thought it was a bit MUCH that Constance Wu’s grandma died the exact same day they botched their scam and she ran around the neighborhood screaming in a bloody crop top.
4. Finish the sentence: “Jennifer Lopez was …”
Halliwell: … my god, my father, and my boss.
Knibbs: … a future Oscar nominee.
Goddu: … larger than life. She took every role she played in the movie—jaw-droppingly hot dancer, devoted mom, aspiring swimwear designer—to its furthest limit without ever crossing over into absurdity.
Wedemeyer: … at her best in an Academy Award–winning role.
Gruttadaro: … the most magnetic person on the screen, in the theater, in all of New York City, on the entire planet, in the universe, etc. etc. etc.
Herman: FIFTY. FIFTY GODDAMN YEARS OLD, SPINNING 720 DEGREES IN FOUR DIMENSIONS TO FIONA APPLE. WHAT?! HOW?!?! WHOMST?!?!?!
5. Who’s the best supporting player in Hustlers?
Goddu: Mercedes Ruehl was a perfectly raspy house mom, as good at offering cake to the girls as she was at summing up the financial crisis’s effects on the club.
Knibbs: I must say Jacq the Stripper, my fellow McGill University alumna.
Herman: If you get Cardi B for only three or four scenes, make one of those scenes her giving J.Lo a lap dance in slow motion.
Halliwell: I loled at every Keke Palmer line reading. Sorry to this man.
Gruttadaro: Keke Palmer nailed every single one of her line readings, and the scene when she bolts out of a hospital parking garage is one of the movie’s biggest laughs. WELCOME TO THE KEKESSAINCE!
6. What’s the most 2007-2012 thing about this movie?
Gruttadaro: All of the Escalades?
Wedemeyer: The fashion—from the Juicy Couture tracksuit Ramona is wearing when she gets arrested, to the Christian Louboutins Mercedes receives as a Christmas present.
Herman: The Juicy tracksuits, and also the post-peak-mall food courts. Shout-out Ramona’s new job at Orange Julius!
Knibbs: So many things, but I loved the absolutely massive Louis Vuitton bags, the low-rise pants, and Jennifer Lopez’s wearing the same kind of outfits that Jennifer Lopez made popular the first time around.
Halliwell: It has to be those giant chain-link purses, right? That or the aggressive tightlining.
7. As a journalist, was Julia Stiles’s character good at her job?
Knibbs: Yes! As far as the reporting went, anyway; she got Destiny and Ramona to tell their stories in intimate detail.
Herman: She was, but that doesn’t mean she was a good or necessary framing device for the movie.
Gruttadaro: I thought she was very professional—and obviously, pretty good at getting a felon to open up to her about committing serious crimes.
Goddu: Yes; I didn’t really notice she was there, but she got a lot out of Destiny!
Halliwell: Don’t answer the phone for a work call during your own baby shower! It’s called work-life balance and it’s important!
8. Why do we love stories about scammers?
Wedemeyer: As someone who tries to follow the law and whatnot, I enjoy stories about scammers because they lead lives that are much more interesting and scandalous than mine. I guess it’s a “living vicariously” type of thing.
Goddu: Because, as Hustlers states again and again, the people who control our society are scammers too. The scammer stories we love are about normal people finally pulling one over on a system that scams and screws us all every day.
Gruttadaro: There’s something endlessly fascinating about people—usually people on the lower end of the food chain, like us—just taking things through pure guile and gumption. There’s an undeniable appeal—and an underdog factor, often—to the people who refuse to play by the rules that were set by a system that didn’t have their best interests at heart.
Herman: I don’t know—I just love stories about strippers living the high life and funding their swimwear lines!!!
9. What would be your dance routine song be, and why?
Goddu: Liz Phair’s “Flower,” because it’s short (pole dancing is hard work!) and because it’s important to be true to oneself.
Knibbs: “Pour It Up” by Rihanna … obviously!
Wedemeyer: I guess “Birthday Cake” by Rihanna, which is a song they used in Hustlers. It’s sexual, powerful, and has a great beat—what more do you need?
Herman: Karaoke is probably the closest I’ll ever come to the chutzpah, vulnerability, and physical exertion required of a professional dancer, so I’ll go with “Tainted Love,” my default track.
Gruttadaro: I limited myself to pre-2012 songs to stay contemporaneous with Hustlers … and then I chose “Alone” by Heart. (Just to note: I’d be wearing a big hair metal wig and one of those super-high-waisted thongs people wore in the ’80s, just to stay on trend.)
Halliwell: So long as I am gainfully employed at The Ringer dot com, I shall not be answering this question. (But also, anything by Megan Thee Stallion.)