Now we know why Constance Wu wanted to get off the boat last spring.
Remember in May when ABC renewed “Fresh off the Boat” and Wu, the female lead, Tweeted her disappointment that she was stuck on board for another season?
We thought it was because of her hit, “Crazy Rich Asians.” But now we know that Wu is a movie star thanks to Jennifer Lopez’s “Hustlers,” which debuted to raves on Saturday night in Toronto. JLo is great, and she’s the draw but Wu anchors the movie and does the real heavy lifting. She’s fun to watch, and can make a nice career on the big screen. Her “boat” character may go overboard sooner than later!
“Hustlers” comes from STX Entertainment, which has struggled to make its name. But now STX can breathe a sigh of relief. “Hustlers” is the movie every studio wants– a big, broad hit that’s also well made and smart. For STX “Hustlers” follows last winter’s “The Upside,” which took in $100 million and proved its naysayers wrong.
Lorene Scafaria has made the first movie about strippers that isn’t just an exploitative vision quest for guys. That’s not to say there aren’t beautiful women here, enough to bring in the male audience. But based on a magazine story, “Hustlers” actually conveys these women as shrewd business people who take control of their lives at the expense of the men who’ve used them for so long.
Scafaria uses a voice over narration and some editing that will remind you of Scorsese in “GoodFellas” but it’s not an imitation, but more an influence. In that sense “Hustlers” could be the sex workers’ version of “Wolf of Wall Street.” But the film also owes a lot to “9 to 5” and “Oceans 8,” among other all-female ensembles.
Lopez and Wu lead their group of former strippers on an adventure to make money by all means necessary. In the movie version, it’s pretty much sexless, with the ladies drugging Wall Street guys, and stealing from their credit card limits. Did they not have sex with them in real life I don’t know. But in Scafaria’s Hollywood dream, the women never get to the bedroom stage. They just take the money and run.
Lopez does the best work of her career, certainly miles beyond her many cheesy prior roles. She’s also part of an ensemble and isn’t required to carry the film. This helps enormously. She’s surrounded by a strong cast that includes Oscar and Tony winner Mercedes Ruehl and the excellent Julia Stiles as the journalist who writes the women’s story and lends gravitas to the proceedings.
Don’t worry– this isn’t a business lesson. There’s lots of pole work, with an especially good teaching scene given by Lopez’s Ramona. Maybe there’s a body double and very good editing, but JLo at 50 is pretty hot, and hats off to her. However Scafaria filmed those scenes, Lopez deserves kudos.
Awards? The Golden Globes should welcome “Hustlers” with open arms. But for now, watch the box office do its own lap dance when this movie gets to audiences.