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TIFF 2019: Hustlers Is More Than Just A Stripper Movie

AMBER DOWLING

image credit: STXFILMS

When we heard Hustlers was making its worldwide debut at the Toronto International Film Festival, we’ll admit we raised our brows. After all, an A-List movie about a group of strippers seemed a little too… box office for a prestigious worldwide festival like TIFF.

Following its premiere on September 7, we’d venture to say there’s nary a soul who would still refer to this movie as “another stripper flick.” While in the 6ix, stars Jennifer Lopez, Constance Wu and Lili Reinhart, along with director Lorene Scafaria, proved that Hustlers is so much more than that.

 

The role of a lifetime

J-Lo has done more than most in her lifetime. She’s starred in films and television, performed chart-topping hits, danced with the best of them and proved that age really is just a number. Yet to hear her describe it, she’s never had a role quite as emotionally charged as Ramona.

“She’s a beast. She starts off kind of tough and nurturing and as the girl who knows the ropes. And then she turns into the one who kind of goes down that slippery slope of greed and what people do to survive,” Lopez, who also produced the movie, said during the TIFF Live Red Carpet. “It was an amazing emotional journey for an actress, obviously, which is why I love the character.”

 

Real-life goods

Hustlers is based on the real life article by Jessica Pressler that was published in The Cut. The way Pressler outlines her characters it seems that they saw themselves as modern day Robin Hoods who gave to… “well, themselves.” Dig deeper though and it’s the untold story of a group of women that society has been conditioned to only see one way.

“When people think about strip clubs or people who work in strip clubs they have so many negative ideas about them,” Lopez said. “The truth is I spoke to so many of them and they all come from different walks of life and they all have a different story and they all have their lines of what they will and won’t do. It is a bit of an education for people as well to not be so judgey and to go on the journey with them and see what brings people to certain things.”

 

A careful director

It’s hard to imagine this film in the hands of any other director, despite Scafaria’s lack of big-screen experience—her only two notable directorial titles to-date include The Meddler and Seeking a Friend for the End of the World. Unlike other movies revolving around strippers (here’s looking at you, Showgirls), she paid careful attention to the actual female experience and didn’t treat the entire thing like some weird male fantasy.

“I didn’t really think that much about stripper movies,” she revealed. “I thought about sports movies, I thought about friendship movies, I thought about gangster films of course. But I certainly have seen a lot of stripper movies in my day. I was really excited to see it from a different perspective.”

 

Female empowerment

On screen and off, all the actors agree Hustlers was a true exercise in female empowerment thanks to all of the supportive women involved in making the actual film.

“This is a dream come true. This is exactly the type of filmmaker that I want to support,” Wu said.

“It was really cool to have women everywhere you looked as part of the crew,” Reinhart added. “During the whole thing I just felt so lucky to be there, I was in the presence of such wonderful filmmakers and actors.”

 

Fun, fearless femmes

That’s the power of J-Lo, we suppose: when she calls, people answer. Even deeper than that though is the changing Hollywood landscape, as films following the #metoo and Time’s Up movements begin to take dive deeper into long-standing tropes and flip some of the gross male misconceptions on their heads. What better way to do that than with a film set before the financial fall in the 2000s, during the height of Wall Street extravagance?

“It is a really interesting thing about men and women in this movie,” Lopez adds. “And the men and how they act and how that’s all okay, but then the women, when they try and take some of the power how they’re looked at.”

Well, until Hustlers, that is.  Following its TIFF premiere, Hustlers hits theatres Friday, Sept. 13. Check out the trailer below.

 

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