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  Hustlers A Dancer For Money
Year: 2019
Director: Lorene Scafaria
Stars: Constance Wu, Jennifer Lopez, Julia Stiles, Keke Palmer, Lili Reinhart, Cardi B, Madeline Brewer, Mercedes Ruehl, Wai Ching Ho, Mette Towley, Vanessa Aspillaga, Trace Lysette, Marcy Richardson, Lizzo, Jon Glaser, Steven Boyer, Devin Ratray, Frank Whaley
Genre: Drama, Thriller, BiopicBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Dorothy called herself Destiny (Constance Wu) for her professional life, as an alias was preferable in her line of work. Which was stripping, pole dancing and lap dancing, and in 2007 the business was something she picked up pretty quickly, she had to if she wanted to make the kind of big money that many of her colleagues were reaping the benefits of, and she was taken under the wing of Ramona (Jennifer Lopez) who taught her the best ways to use her body to her advantage. What she really wanted to do was make enough to look after her grandmother (Wai Ching Ho), who had looked after her in turn, but she was making so much profit from rich, horny businessmen she was now rich herself...

Though not as rich as those corporate blokes who showed up every night to splash the cash for a lapdance, or, if they could afford it, a private show. But if you know your history, then you will be aware of what happened next: Will Ferrell and Adam McKay were here as producers, and there was a flavour of The Big Short about it, yet also an approach that suggested Martin Scorsese's The Wolf of Wall Street could have been an inspiration too. He declined to direct, probably because he had said all he wanted to on the matter, but Lorene Scafaria stepped up with a perspective that offered a depth you could not imagine Scorsese imbuing the material with: this was a girl/girl buddy movie.

If you are one of those people who lament the lack of films about female friendship in comparison to the plethora of films about male friendship, things were never quite as bad as you believe, and the fact Hustlers was a hit proved there was an appetite for such things and had been for some time, even if it had not been sated as often as would be preferable. But Scafaria was not going to allow us to indulge in any fantasy of all girls together empowerment, for the style was colder, more observant than that, appropriately for a real-life tale that plunged straight into a life of crime. Though Ramona believes her marks deserve to be drugged and robbed, the overall tone is not so sure.

This was kind of warning against the dangers of being caught up in the moment, of getting addicted to that adrenaline rush of getting away with something, either for an evening or a matter of years. In the stock market crash of 2008, Destiny's life of Riley comes crashing down, since all those business types she has been profiting off have either lost their jobs, their fortunes or have gained a kind of sense not to spend so profligately and the strip clubs feel the pinch as the clientele desert them. She is reduced to getting a "proper job", or she would if she was qualified for anything other than whipping her clothes off and gyrating, and the desperation that so many felt when the financial bubble burst is affecting her too. We are in no doubt the corporates and banks were profiting illegally from people's misery - so why, Ramona reasons, shouldn't she and her girls?

Counting on the fact that 99% of their victims would be too embarrassed to admit they were slipped a Mickey Finn and had their credit cards raided by Ramona's gang, these women start living the high life once again, and the American Dream is once again exposed as the American Greed. Yet no matter how mercenary they get, the women's solidarity redeems them - at least until we realise they have become what they hated, and the exploited have become the exploiters, a very twenty-first century theme. Although the Scorsese model was followed, where this truly scored was the casting: Gayle Keller was in charge of recruiting a mix of pretty faces, famous faces for stunt casting, and performers more than capable of bringing humanity to what was more complex a set of circumstances than initially appears, and though the plot was straightforward disillusionment stuff when it boiled down, the acting kept you engrossed. With a woman directing, the nudity was at a minimum which may disappoint some, but this was not so superficial. The calculated chill in the air prevented real indulgence in what could have been a romp - it certainly was not.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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