I really wanted to love this movie. Filled to the brim with some of the most iconic names in the music industry and Hollywood (perhaps too many — was Usher’s cameo really necessary?), I expected nothing but great things from this eclectic, glittery premiere.
I was eager to dive straight into the world of strip clubs and pole dancing, and while the first 10 minutes succeeded in whetting my palate, I quickly lost interest and fell more and more confused as every minute passed. It seemed like with every new scene there was another storyline to be explored that was never truly followed up on. What resulted was a chaotic mish-mosh of blurry flashbacks and awkward cuts to the present-day.
Despite the film starting with a closeup of the “new girl,” Destiny (played by Constance Wu), Jennifer Lopez really takes up most of the screen time. Intentional or not, perhaps the overbearing Mama Bear trope would have succeeded if we got to see more from Lopez’s point of view. What we got instead was a poorly done, roundabout case study focused primarily on Destiny. Unfortunately, Wu’s flat character was not enough to give us what Hustlers really needed; an in-depth look at what was going on at any point during this movie.
Also, whether purposeful or not, giving Destiny the classic Asian bowl cut bangs while Ramona flaunts her luscious locks? Not cool. This wasn’t the first instance of inferiority present either; Ramona’s attire — or anyone other than Destiny for that matter — is explicitly more scandalous, flattering and eye-catching. I get it, you’re showcasing the mentor-mentee relationship between them in the beginning. But I hate to break it to you Hollywood, I’m pretty sure that desexualizing one woman at the expense of another doesn’t really show feminism or equality as much as you think it does.
At some points it seemed like the story was about motherhood or sisterhood, while at other points it seemed to be about American capitalism and greed. The line that stuck with me — not necessarily because I agree with it but because of how outrageous it was — came from Lopez herself: “Motherhood is a mental illness.” Moments like these are tragic because of their potential to become something deeper and meaningful, but often fall short and are instead delivered like a badly written soap opera.
On the same theme, there was much to be said about the role reversal these four women took as perpetrators of drinking and drugging countless men. Sadly, the scenes that discussed roofies and drug handling were much too cliché to warrant any actual emotional effectiveness. Although I understood the premise, I felt extremely shortchanged by the way they handled such a delicate topic. There’s much room for improvement, but I appreciate the attempt to broach the subject.
I will say that the representation in this film was exquisite. Women of all races, body types and levels of fame formed this tight-knit community of strippers, which was refreshing after seeing nothing but the stereotypical Caucasian, stick-thin women throughout our media.
Overall, Hustlers stands in the uncomfortable intersection of Hollywood and independent movies as a wannabe indie film. If Hustlers was supposed to be about a group of women banding together to fight American corporate greed, then perhaps you could take that as a message. For me though, the movie constantly reminded of The Wolf of Wall Street: It’s fun to imagine yourself in its world for an hour, but ultimately, you walk out the theater feeling like you’ve just been force fed a bunch of flashy, meaningless bullshit you’ll never once encounter in your life.
Stephanie Tan is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.