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We’ve all seen them and at some point, even if you don’t want to admit it, on a sleepless night of studying or reluctantly writing that essay you should have started days ago, you thought…how much money does a stripper make again?
Writer-Director Lorene Scafaria’s new movie, “Hustlers” (2019) might make you think twice.
Based on a real story of four exotic dancers, Samantha Barbash, Roselyn Keo, Karina Pascucci, and Marsi Rosen, who find themselves in hot water with the law when they start finessing rich men’s pockets for a “little” extra cash off stage during the 2008 recession.
The true story which the movie portrays is the 2015 Vulture magazine article, “The Hustlers at Score,” written by journalist Jessica Pressler; who in the movie is named Elizabeth and is played by Julia Stiles.
The four dancers, Ramona, Destiny, Mercedes, and Annabelle are brought to life by iconic stars: Jennifer Lopez, Constance Wu, Keke Palmer, and Lili Reinhart.
The film is centered around Destiny (Constance Wu) retelling the whole story of the failed scheme she participated in with Ramona (Jennifer Lopez) to journalist Elizabeth (Julia Stiles which sets the movie up as a flashback into the events leading to them getting busted.
Destiny first starts dancing in gentlemen’s clubs to help her grandmother, who had raised her, pay bills.
She was not the best dancer in my opinion and many others might agree from the number of exasperated groans I heard in the theater every time she attempted to be “sexy.” This is only further confirmed in the film when many men deny her when she asks if they want a dance from her.
She finally moves on to dance at a club where she meets the best dancer, Ramona (Jennifer Lopez). Destiny watches Ramona give an enthralling performance for the men in the club which in the real world many women and men alike enjoyed as well as hushed “Yes, Queen!” scattered through the room.
The two begin to form a sisterhood when Ramona gives Destiny tips and tricks to secure getting the most cash when she dances. Cardi B (a former stripper) makes an appearance during this as another dancer named Diamond. Of course, she never switched up acting just as her naturally funny and extra self.
Slightly better at dancing, Destiny (Constance Wu) is making money and is able to support her grandmother and later her daughter that she has with one of the men she danced for in the club but is at the top of her game along with the other girls who have become her family.
The plot comes into fruition and becomes a bit serious when the recession of 2008 comes around and the men of Wall Street are no longer frequenting the clubs and the dancers are making no money. Thus, forcing the girls of the club to find jobs which is difficult because they have no other work experience.
Tired of the hard times and not wanting to strip anymore, Ramona concocts the idea of meeting rich businessmen at a bar, drugging them and coercing them to go to the strip club and running up their credit cards.
The scheme starts out with just the four women: Ramona, Destiny Mercedes, and Annabelle until Ramona wants to make more money and recruits more girls. Although Destiny becomes very wary and cautious due to the severe repercussion of what could happen, she continues on with the scheme.
Eventually, they slip up when one of the men they drug remembers what happens to him and asks for his money back. When he can’t he goes to the police and tells them what the women have done. He isn’t believed at first until one of the girls Ramona recruits gets picked up and snitches on their whole operation.
Of course, they are arrested, and Destiny is faced with making a deal and ratting out Ramona whom she thought of as a sister or going to jail and missing out on raising her young daughter.
Essentially, Destiny decides to take the deal and be there for her daughter, ultimately ruining the family dynamic she built with Annabelle, Mercedes, and Ramona but mostly the close bond she had with Ramona.
In my opinion, this film does a great job showing the ugly side of being a stripper, showing it’s not as glamorous as it seems.
From the outside looking in, it looks like a bunch of beautiful men and women with perfect bodies making stacks of money every night just showing themselves off but no one sees the part where there are internal battles with morality and values that ultimately decide whether they go home with a decent enough check or not.
Obviously, this is not a family-friendly film, being rated-R which is a perfect fit due to some raunchy scenes that you would expect to be in a movie such as this, so I wouldn’t suggest bringing your siblings who are in elementary school.
Exciting and intriguing with a touching theme of sisterhood is what I would call this movie that gives you a real peek into the world of exotic dancing with some exaggeration.
Overall, “Hustlers” might make you rethink being a stripper when those long study nights loom over you or it might make you want to try your hand at a few moves, and why not? Just don’t hurt yourself.
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