I’ve been a J.Lo fan for as long as I can remember. Her 2002 album This Is Me…Then was the very first CD I owned; I was four. To this day I still know every word to “Jenny from the Block.” A lot has changed for her since 2002, but one thing that hasn’t changed is her ability to command a stage. That’s exactly what Lopez and the rest of the cast do in Hustlers.
Based on a true story adapted from The Cut article “The Hustlers at Scores” by Jessica Pressler, Hustlers is the story of struggling stripper Destiny and her ultra-successful mentor Ramona as they reach multi-million dollar success, falter during the 2008 recession, and then mastermind a criminal plan to get back at wealthy men.
Hustlers stars Jennifer Lopez as Ramona and Constance Wu as Destiny. They strike up a friendship early on in the film when Destiny watches Ramona’s show-stopping performance and later finds her on the roof of the club. Instead of giving Destiny the cold shoulder, as the other girls did, Ramona affectionately wraps Destiny is her billowing fur coat and offers to show her the ropes.
Business was booming for Ramona and Destiny as they experienced their best year at the club in 2007. Money was pouring in and they knew exactly how to spend it on luxurious, designer items. Good times aren’t always meant to last forever, though, which proved true in 2008 when the worst recession in recent history hit. The Wall Street hotshots stopped going to the clubs and the money all but dried up, so Ramona and Destiny had to get creative. “You want them drunk enough to get their credit card but sober enough to sign the check,” Ramona says in Hustlers.
Ramona and fellow dancers from the club, Mercedes (Keke Palmer) and Annabelle (Lili Reinhart), had been meeting wealthy men in bars and slipping them a mixture of MDMA and ketamine. Destiny signs on to the plan and she and Ramona attempt to perfect their drug-filled, memory loss cocktail. The two of them testing different drug cooking methods would have made Walter White proud.
The scam went higher and higher as they took more risks and racked up more charges on the men’s credit cards. In the end, they flew too close to the sun and got burned. The hustlers paid the price for their scam; Destiny took a plea deal, Ramona received five years of probation, and Mercedes and Annabelle spent weekends in jail for four months.
Hustlers doesn’t depict what the women did as wrong, but paints a picture of the American class system and money. These women had been on the outskirts of society and were struggling in their own way before they found each other. Hustlers shows the support, safety, and family they found in each other.
The casting for Hustlers is excellent; the chemistry between Lopez, Wu, Palmer, and Reinhart is amazing. Lopez shows her depth and range as an actor, already receiving plenty of Oscar buzz for her electrifying performance. There’s never a dull moment in Hustlers — it keeps your eyes fixed on the screen and wishing for more.