Updated: Jun 18, 2020
When I first heard about Hustlers, directed by Lorene Scafaria, I honestly wasn’t expecting much. I figured it would be a solid B movie that I might check out with a friend to support a female-led, female-directed film that might be a fun ride, but not much more than that. However, when the film opened at TIFF to glowing reviews, my excitement grew exponentially and it became one of my must-sees for the fall movie season.
I attended a Tuesday night screening of Hustlers and, as any AMC on a Tuesday is, it was a full house ($5 ticket Tuesday!! If you didn’t know now you do!). Honestly, I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. The crowd, which unsurprisingly was mostly made up of women, was one of the most fun, enthusiastic audiences I’ve seen a movie with in a long time. The first half of the film has so much energy to it. Time is mostly spent watching the women work their version of 9 to 5. Huge props go to the production designer Jane Musky who is able to capture the energy and inner workings of a busy, NYC strip club in a way that feels authentic and never objectifying.
However, what surprised me the most about Hustlers was just how emotionally resonant and powerful it is. The film, while not condoning the women’s actions, makes the effort to rationalize and sympathize with why they did it. The two leads Destiny (Constance Wu) and Ramona (Jennifer Lopez) are given a powerful, complicated and often moving relationship and provide the film with a lot of emotional weight. It demystifies and takes away the fantasy surrounding sex work showing that for a lot of women, it's just another day on the job. All this, no doubt, is in large part thanks to the many women involved in the creative team of the film.
Hustlers is an incredibly important reminder that while on-screen representation is incredibly important for progress in the film industry, representation behind the camera is just as important, if not even more so. For a film that is so grounded in the female identity and experience, the only way the story of Hustlers could ever be told in a way that feels honest and true would be to tell it from a female perspective. Had Hustlers been made with a man at the helm as director, the result might have been something closer to Showgirls than what we got. And what we got was pretty wonderful.