2019, Movies

Hustlers (2019, Lorene Scafaria)

This is a pretty heavily stylized dramatization of a true story of strippers ripping off rich men in post crash New York City. I somehow never read the infamous article – though I’m going to now – so I can’t comment onto how accurate the depiction is. (Though that is not something I usually care about.) But without knowing, it feels, well, slick.

This is a pretty film, from a stylistic point of view: pretty women in expensive clothes – often in very little clothing – and walking or dancing in slow motion or in one of the movies innumerable montages and cues. On some level I get the decision to heavy on the style, given that the appeal of strippers to men is, at least in part, a superficial aesthetic one. But one danger with leaning heavily into the style is a feeling of superficiality and there is a bit of a sense of that here. For example: the music cues – I have a bit of a personal hangup with the overuse of music cues and there are a lot of them here. (Again, I want to acknowledge I think this is deliberate and I understand it, I’m just not 100% sure it works.)

Some of that sense of superficiality also comes from a lack of character development – aside from Destiny, it often feels like we don’t really know these women. There’s a lot of strutting, there isn’t so much backstory. (For example, Annabelle doesn’t have a personality so much as she has a gag. It’s a pretty funny gag, but it’st no substitute for a character.)

For me, the best part of the movie is the humour, which often comes at unexpected times and feels rooted in very real experiences. (For example the cop and pizza gag.) IMBD lists it as a comedy – though Wikipedia lists it as a “crime drama” – but I wouldn’t have called it that on my own. (“Dramedy” feels more appropriate to me.) Still, it is funny in parts and the comedy mostly feels very authentic and not at all false or like a crutch.

But I need more character development or more plot for something like this. Like I have so many questions about how they came up with their scam that I am going to read the source article. I need details in a movie like this and there’s not enough. And if I’m going to be okay with the lack of plot I need more character.

Still, it was enjoyable enough and I can see why people like it given the look of the film and the subject matter.


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