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#TIFF19 Review: Hustlers (Gala Presentations)

September 8, 2019

By John Corrado

★★½ (out of 4)

Based on a true story, Hustlers centres around Destiny (Constance Wu), a young stripper who becomes the protege of Ramona (Jennifer Lopez), the de facto queen of the club. When the club starts losing business during the 2008 recession, Ramona hatches a plan to make money by drugging their rich clients and maxing out their credit cards. Destiny gets roped in to Ramona’s scheme, but they can only live large for so long before getting the attention of the feds.

Directed by Lorene Scafaria, following up her wonderful dramedy The Meddler which premiered at the festival in 2015, Hustlers is the filmmaker’s glossiest and most mainstream movie yet. The film is mildly enjoyable to watch at times, anchored by a pair of decent performances from Wu and Lopez, and it’s set to a solid soundtrack of pop songs. But it’s also inconsistent, overlong, and tonally confused. While it’s understandable why the film would have a certain level of sympathy for some of these characters, at times it feels like a straight up glorification of their behaviour, an approach that feels problematic.

This is a somewhat serious true story, and yet the film aims to be more frothy entertainment than gritty crime drama. Cinematographer Todd Benhazi brings some vibrancy to the strip club scenes, but the rest of the film has a flat, grey scale colour grade that gives it the look of a TV movie. While Hustlers tries hard to be Scorsese, it’s no Goodfellas or Wolf of Wall Street, and is ultimately an okay but forgettable piece of pop entertainment.

Constance Wu and Jennifer Lopez in Hustlers

Public Screenings:

Saturday, September 7th – 9:30 PM at Roy Thomson Hall

Sunday, September 8th – 6:00 PM at Ryerson Theatre

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