This is a grit-behind-the-glamour, sisters-doing-it-for-themselves escapade, based on a true story and with a Bonnie and Clyde flair.
Don’t be fooled by the emphasis the posters put on stripping – while there is dancing involved, it’s the complexity of the relationship between the two ringleaders that the story truly reveals.
Jennifer Lopez is amazing. The woman is 50. . . 50! – and can curve around a stripper’s pole like a boa constrictor around Britney Spears. That is a pretty constant thought throughout this film – as is the refrain that I need to work out more.
Audiences might be expecting a fun, glamorised look at the New York exotic dancing scene, with plenty of lights, sparkle and upbeat music. This film is not that. While there are designer labels aplenty, and some very impressive dance moves, the story delves more behind the scenes, highlighting the exploitation and desperation all those involved feel.
Based on a true story, 'Hustlers' tells the tale of what happens to dancers after Wall Street crashes, and the high flyers – with their enormous tips – no longer have the income to support the party lifestyle. Some of the stereotypes are very predictable, but it doesn’t detract from the story. It holds up an economic mirror to our western society too – who is taking advantage of who, and the massive wealth gap, are recurring themes. What people choose to spend their money on – rather than save – is also a common trope.
But what shines through are the female relationships: 'friendships' isn’t quite the word for it. The two main protagonists have a complicated relationship, co-dependent, loving but also possessive; they refer to the strip club manager as 'Mom' while their own families are absent or have abandoned them; and men are either a waste of space, exploiters or cut-out-characters to be exploited. There is no romance.
Such complicated, fraught female relationships on the big screen, and in particular female anti-heroes, is very interesting to see: this certainly isn’t your standard chick flick. All the actors turn in great performances – a self deprecating cameo by Usher is fantastic – but Jennifer Lopez is the standout. This Jenny is 100 per cent from the block, and she’s a survivor.