Posts Tagged Wai Ching Ho

Hustlers

hustlersfilmposterStarring: Big Jay, Big Jay Oakerson, Cardi B, Constance Wu, Emma Batiz, Frank Whaley, Jennifer Lopez, Julia Stiles, Keke Palmer, Lili Reinhart, Lizzo, Madeline Brewer, Marcy Richardson, Mette Towley, Stormi Maya, Trace Lysette, Vanessa Aspillaga, Wai Ching Ho
Director: Lorene Scafaria
Rating: 15
Runtime: 110 min

Hustlers tells the story of a crew of strippers in New York City who begin to steal money by drugging stock traders and CEOs who visit their club, then running up their credit cards.

On some levels, Hustlers is an enjoyable movie. The relationship between Dorothy, a.k.a. Destiny (Constance Wu) the new girl at the Manhattan gentlemen’s club and the established Ramona (Jennifer Lopez) is intriguing throughout. Jennifer Lopez steals the show and looks stunning (at 50 years of age). She trained intensively for her dance routines and it shows.

I liked the way in which the stripping was handled as Simran Hans wrote in the Guardian: “Brilliantly, though, the editing is teasing rather than explicit; Scafaria offers just enough of the girls and their bodies to get pulses racing without exploiting them or their story.” The exploitation of the girls by the club and the hierarchy of power within them was clearly presented – treating the club as a workplace as well as a place of entertainment.

Where I have a problem with Hustlers is the portrayal of the crimes in a way that seems to condone them and present them as “Robin Hood-esque”. These events had consequences in real life (it’s based on a true story). Yes, I can understand that the 2008 financial crash would affect the income of strippers near Wall Street. Yes, I can see that many of those frequenting the club wouldn’t elicit any great sympathy from me or anyone else. Drugging them with MDMA to make them happy and ketamine to distort their memories and then maxing their credit cards is just plain wrong, however. The lack of any focus on the male victims in this film and the story being told from only one perspective might make you forget that.

The film is not short on justification for the crimes the strippers committed and back in real life neither are some of those convicted. One of them (Roselyn Keo) said:

“It sounds so bad to say that we were, like, drugging people,” she said. “But it was, like, normal.”

“What’s an extra $20,000 to them? It wasn’t like we pulled them off the street. “They had history. They’d been to Hustler, they’d been to Rick’s, they’d been to Scores. They all walked in ready to party. And yeah, we slipped an extra one that they didn’t know about. But all of it goes hand in hand — sex, drugs, and rock and roll. You know?”

There is a bit of hand-wringing in the film about one guy who had an autistic son. In real life his name was Fred. The strippers ripped-off a company card and he got fired. Later, after starting a new job, he was informed his name had been reported to an agency that tracks white-collar crime, and he was fired again. Since then, he’s found a new job but lives in fear of being found out by his current employer. “I wake up in the morning thinking about it. “Every day, once or twice a day, I feel the barrel of the gun against my head.”

I wasn’t surprised to learn that the audience breakdown of the opening weekend was 67% female, including 69% being over the age of 25. When I saw it the audience was overwhelmingly female. Given the way, male characters are treated (not one is developed as a sympathetic character and only one is given any redeeming qualities) it was likely that men would simply not want to watch it. They’ve voted with their feet (or at least their money).

The gushing praise lavished on Hustlers by critics is noteworthy. Isn’t it odd that confused ‘Feminists’ who understand why informed consent is so important can accept a film like this without a murmur or, indeed, present it as a socially worthy work? It shows just how far the moral values which should underpin our society have disintegrated. It’s OK to drug and rob someone if they are an unsympathetic character. Or so the people behind the slick and watchable Hustlers would seem to have you believe.

Reviewed by Pat Harrington

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