By stripping the patriarchy, Hustlers highlights badass female friendships

These former strippers bite back at patriarchal capitalism to steal their own paper

Hustlers features an all-star cast, including Lili Reinhart, Jennifer Lopez, Keke Palmer, and Constance Wu. Image courtesy of STX Films / Variety.

By: Kitty Cheung, Peak Associate

Sexy. Provocative. Criminal. These are just a few words one might use to describe this powerful, female-driven movie. Inspired by a true story, Hustlers recounts the story of a group of former strippers who leave dancing to build an empire out of luring white-collar men into clubs and hotel rooms, drugging them, and stealing from their bank accounts. 

Having grown up fucked over by American capitalist society, these women decide to take matters into their own hands by targeting Wall Street assholes and their credit cards. They’re glamorous, independent, and business-savvy — well aware of their charm and allure, they’re also dangerous.

The screenplay, written by director Lorene Scafaria, was inspired by an article from The Cut written by Jessica Pressler, titled “The Hustlers at Scores.” The article tells the real-life story of Roselyn “Rosie” Keo and Samantha Barbash (fictionalized in the film as the characters Dorothy/Destiny and Ramona, respectively) and the other women they recruited into their money making scheme. The film’s script borrows many notable lines from the article, notably “Just a sprinkle” and “What a boob!”.

The film’s editing fluctuates between present-day and flashback as Destiny (played by Constance Wu) recounts her side of the story. The present-day portions of the film centre around Destiny’s experience during an interview with journalist Elizabeth (Julia Stiles) from inside Destiny’s flawless suburban home. 

Hustlers begins with Destiny struggling to make ends meet as she supports her aging grandmother. Defeated and dejected by the difficult nature of her strip club work, she looks to senior dancer Ramona (played by Jennifer Lopez) for guidance. Eventually, the two lose touch, only to reunite after the 2008 economic crash when Destiny joins Ramona in her grand “marketing” scheme.  

The theme of female friendship runs strongly throughout the film. Women supporting women is especially apparent in the first scenes inside the strip club’s dressing room. There’s lively energy and excitement in the fun teasing between the women, whether they’re talking about their work or their dildos. The diversity of the cast, featuring women of different body types and colours such as Keke Palmer, Lili Reinhart, Cardi B, Lizzo, and Trace Lysette, is especially apparent in these dressing room scenes.

While the relationships between the characters were portrayed convincingly by the cast, the more technical aspects of the film also had a hand in establishing its theme. For example, the colouring of the strip club scenes was visually striking and evocative: lush with pink and indigo hues, it’s pretty, feminine, and strong.

The soundtrack of the film offers major throwbacks to Top 40 hits from the 2000s. From Britney Spears’ “Gimme More” to Usher’s “Love in this Club” to Lorde’s “Royals,” it was interesting to see how music was used to denote different time periods within the storyline.

As a critique of patriarchal capitalism, this is a story about boss ass bitches taking charge of their careers and their livelihoods. While conflicts definitely do arise between Ramona and Destiny, the story of these (literal) partners in crime demonstrates the strength and intricacy of female friendships. 

Hustlers is currently showing in movie theatres across Canada.