Graphic by Kathleen Hetherington
“Hustlers” is a breathtaking drama that peels away at the archetypal story of a disadvantaged group of people making their way to the top by stealing from the powerful, to reveal a beautiful story about family, loss
Lorene Scafaria’s “Hustlers” is a crime drama that follows a group of women as they go from being exotic dancers to running a multimillion-dollar operation through the merit of drugging rich, powerful businessmen and stealing their credit card information. Based on a 2015 New York Magazine article titled “The Hustlers at Scores,” the film tackles the grim and complex morality of the Robin Hood mentality with a large amount of grace and tact. This results in an emotionally impactful, thought-provoking experience.
The plot is structured in an interesting way with the timeline of events being narrated by the main character Dorothy, played by Constance Wu, as she is interviewed for the aforementioned 2015 article.
This lasts until about two-thirds into the story when the audience is abruptly taken out of this structure and thrust into a more abstract collection of recordings and interviews collected by reporter Elizabeth, played by Julia Stiles. These recordings allow the film to slip between the past and the present fluidly, leading to a smooth and polished story.
Another strong plot point is the development of conflicting, overarching themes that are present throughout the story. This is how the movie explores the gray morality of the main character’s actions as she grapples with things like her being critical of Wall Street for manipulating the public in order to live lavish lives while she is also manipulating wealthy people to do the exact same thing. The multiple conflicting dynamics create a thought-provoking atmosphere for the story to take place and add to the overall impact of the film.
The soundtrack is a diverse one with songs ranging from late 2000s hip-hop to classical piano. The stark musical contrast is often used to stylistically denote the difference in how the characters act for their clients and their actual life experiences.
This artistic decision of using contrasting music in such a way helps to establish the complexity of the characters and their situation. The film also knows when to show restraint. In one scene in particular, there is a notable lack of additional audio beyond the main character and Jennifer Lopez’s dialogue that serves to highlight the emotional weight of the moment.
The performances were phenomenal across the board. From Jenifer Lopez who stole every single scene, to Cardi B who had more of a cameo performance, not a single person phoned it in. Every character felt dynamic and interesting, partly because of the amazing writing, but also because of the incredibly talented actresses that made up the hustling crew.
The technical elements of the film were ambitious, particularly when it came to audio. There is one scene where the narrative is being told through the recording of a police sting and the audio is designed to sound like it is coming from a hidden microphone. Rather than just having the audience imagine all of those thematic elements, “Hustlers” actually presents them.
Choices like these provide the audience with powerful moments that leave them stunned. A story told in the way of “Hustlers” reveals the incredible talent of everyone who worked on it and also provides a memorable experience to those who see it.