A film like Hustlers tends to be the type of film that Reel Dialogue would give a miss. Due to the positive buzz around Jennifer Lopez’s performance, it does warrant reviewing. This film does contain mature content. 

The film opens with a journalist, Elizabeth (Julia Stiles), interviewing former sex-worker Destiny (Constance Wu). The young dancer recounts her beginnings as a lap dancer in the pre-Global Financial Crisis (GFC) era of 2007, before being introduced to pole-dancing by the veteran, Ramona Vega (Lopez). The seasoned performer takes the less experienced dancer under her wing and helps her to navigate this dark world. Ramona shares her experience, her skills and introduces Destiny to the right customers to help her along in her career. Helping her to know which businessmen to target for the most money and which ones to avoid. Then the GFC hits and it impacts everyone from the traders to the dancers they spend their bonuses on. The two women lose contact during this challenging financial time and then Destiny becomes pregnant.

A few years later, Destiny is forced to return to sex work after severing ties with her baby’s father. While she has been away from the industry, the atmosphere where she used to work has changed. The club has employed a contingent of Russian workers who are willing to do more than merely dance for their clients. These things never used to happen at the club before the GFC and Destiny quickly determines that this atmosphere is not right for her. Fortunately, she reconnects with Ramona and their friendship is rekindled. During their reunion, the friends put together a plan to turn the tables on their former Wall Street clients by spiking their drinks and then ‘milking’ the limits of their credit cards. Things go according to plan until Ramona starts to expand the ‘business’ by recruiting more girls and targeting men that they do not already know.

The premise will cause many to pause in considering this film, but one surprising element of this film is the sympathetic tone set for the women in this trade. Both Ramona and Destiny have family obligations where people rely on them for living. Both women feel that with their limited skills and lack of education that they must resort to using their bodies to earn money.

It seems evident to say, but it should be stated that Hustlers is a true-to-life story of strippers working in a club atmosphere and contains female and male nudity. Based on this element and the history of these films, the genre can tend to de-humanise women in this profession. This outing does work to show the heart of Ramona and her willingness to care for her young protege. Seeing her lack of abilities in her dancing, she works to ‘up-skill’ Destiny. Discerning the right customers, mentoring her and other dancers to navigate this problematic work atmosphere. Later in the film, Ramona does the same thing with a much younger worker when she found out that the woman’s family had disowned her after finding out how she was making money.

One thing can be said of Jennifer Lopez’s performance is that this one of the best of her career. It would not be a surprise to see her in the running for many awards as that season quickly approaches. Her portrayal of Ramona is smart, sassy and surprisingly empowering for an industry that denigrates women. Apart from striving to make as much money as possible, her character’s main objective was to build camaraderie amongst the female sex-workers. Does her performance warrant people attending Hustlers? Not really, but it should be acknowledged that Lopez does a great job in this role.

Reel Dialogue: Is theft ever justified?

Ramona’s justification for stealing money from her Wall Street clients came from the idea that many of them had stolen money from their clients first. After all, what harm was there in taking money that had already been stolen? 

Do two wrongs make a right? This man-made proverb does not make anything right. Theft is theft, wrong is wrong. A phrase that may be hard to hear in this world of moral flexibility, but this just would not hold up in any court of law and does not sit right with God.

Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Ephesians 4:28

This passage shares the value of living an honourable life of work and earning a wage. Theft is an act of selfishness that cannot be justified, even if it is towards those who are of questionable moral character. The work of mankind should be to build others up as opposed to being a means of destroying someone else’s life. 

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. John 10:10