The highly anticipated film, "Hustlers," debuted in theaters on Sept. 13, 2019. Based on a true story, the movie follows a group of strippers in New York City who begin to drug their clients when their club is going down the drain after the stock market crash in 2008. This film is not how you may picture it to be. It’s more of an epic tale rather than a negative light being shone onto these women, who felt cornered with no other option to make money. Even before anyone saw the film, it was talked about everywhere and by everyone. The cast is chock full of A-list celebrities, like Lili Reinhart, Keke Palmer, Jennifer Lopez, and even artists we typically wouldn’t see in a movie, for example Cardi B and Lizzo. This film surpassed expectations with over $43 million in box office revenue coming after just one week. The popularity of this film, in particular, is something to note. Not only is it extremely difficult for any movie to make much money right now due to the popularity of Netflix, but this is also a full cast of women. This movie is set apart because the secondary characters are men, while the main characters are independent women: something we seldom see in the film industry.
"Hustlers" has the perfect balance of humor and relatability. Of course the average person going to see this film is not going to have first hand experience with the topics at hand, like stripping, and the struggles that come with sex work. However, I found it relatable that the characters craved financial independence. They didn’t want to rely on anyone, they wanted to grind and pave a way for themselves and their families. The two main characters in particular, Ramona and Destiny, each have a daughter. It was said many times throughout the film, “motherhood is a mental illness." This was a big part of why these women felt pressure to do more and be more; they wanted to provide for their children in a big way. These mothers wanted to be able to give their kids anything they wanted, anything they needed, and more. This is where things start to become difficult for the characters.
The film is shown in a chronological sort of way. Things were great before 2008, and everyone was so happy. Then, when the market crashed, the NYC strippers lost their most valuable customers: those who worked on Wall Street. Once this happened, the women felt some real struggles of sex work, where they had to compete with others and, thus, had to forfeit standards they held for themselves. The main characters refused to actually become physical with their clients, but they struggled when others would offer to do more for less money. They were put out of their own business. The women first tried to take advantage of drunk guys trying to sleep with them at the bar. Once they were drunk enough, the women were able to sneak away their card and charge it to the club without any suspicion, claiming it was just a fun night out. The money was not coming in steadily enough and the characters wanted to find a “shortcut." It was here that the idea of drugging their clients to avoid memories of their nights and taking their cards to charge $5,000 was first brought to light.
I won’t give away what happened in the movie, but it was a roller-coaster to watch these women succeed and root for them and their happiness and ultimately have it all come crashing down. This film deals with relationships between women, sex work and stripping, pressures for providing for loved ones and more. It’s hard to not have a smile on your face while watching everything work out so well for them in the beginning, as we know their stories and begin to love these characters. Though you know what they’re doing is morally wrong, it’s hard to not want these women to have better for themselves.
I was pleased with the light the characters were painted with in this movie. I didn’t know what to expect, but it wasn’t such an empowering female film, especially one that sounded like such an epic tale. It had the audience laughing at points, and crying at others. It wasn’t a story of robbing millionaires of NYC, it was a story of sticking together in sisterhood.