HUSTLERS – Review by Susan Granger

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When sleaze is not considered sleaze, it’s coupled with sisterhood. That’s the premise of Lorena Scafaria’s flesh & feminism chronicle, revolving around sex workers in a New York strip club.

Inspired by a 2015 “New York” magazine article about Scores nightclub by Jessica Pressler, their story is revealed from the perspective of Destiny (Constance Wu), recalling it to a journalist (Julia Stiles).

Raised by her grandmother in Queens, Destiny has a high-school GED and no discernable skills. So she dons a G-string and glitter pumps to lap dance a strip club. Soon she’s dazzled by Ramona (Jennifer Lopez), who takes Destiny as her protégé – enveloping her in a luxurious fur coat one wintry night.

First, Destiny must learn pole dancing, which Ramona demonstrates with stamina and skill. “Doesn’t money make you horny?” Lopez purrs amid the neon fantasy. Then there’s 2008’s stock market crash, and Wall Street spenders are more difficult to fleece.

That’s when Ramona and Destiny recruit Annabelle (Lili Reinhart) and Mercedes (Keke Palmer) to seduce gullible, hardy-partying guys into the strip club where they slip knockout drops into their drinks in order to empty their wallets and max out their credit cards.

An entire scene is devoted to how – with girlish glee – they cook up the MDMA-ketamine concoction they use on their marks. “Just a sprinkle,” Ramona instructs them.

Rather than cast moral judgment on their actions, writer/director Scafaria celebrates their female empowerment, relishing their solidarity and loyalty to one another. Plus, there’s the big-screen debut of former Bronx stripper Cardi B, along with Lizzo and Usher cameos.

Eventually, the NYPD catches onto their con, and the four women are charged with grand larceny, forgery, conspiracy, and assault. Since they serve little or no jail time, Ramona’s concludes: “This whole country is a strip club. You got people tossing the money and people doing the dance.”

With charismatic J Lo, at least it’s a step up from Showgirls (1995).

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, Hustlers is a spiky-sly 7, a stripper scam.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.