Mariah Lindsey, Staff Writer
Based on the New York Magazine article “The Hustlers at Scores,” the 2019 film chronicles the seven-year story of stripper Destiny, portrayed by “Crazy Rich Asians” star Constance Wu. Having become the newest dancer at a New York strip club, Destiny befriends seasoned dancer and single mother Ramona, of whom her charismatic and driven persona is brilliantly portrayed by singer and actress Jennifer Lopez.
After Ramona helps Destiny transition from an awkward and uncomfortable performer struggling to make ends meet for her family to a seductive and confident woman, the duo fosters a strong sense of community among the workers in the club. This financial prosperity and happiness for Destiny lasts until the Great Recession of 2008, however, when many of the working men of Wall Street fail to service the club.
This year also marks a major lifestyle change for Destiny and results in her leaving the strip club for several years. What was once a blossoming friendship between Destiny and Ramona becomes stagnant for a while, until 2011 when the pair is reunited and still reeling from the effects of the lack of money flowing into the club.
The events of the last few years triggers Ramona’s drive to achieve a monopoly of wealth. Not long after her reunion with Destiny, she informs her of a scheme she has developed along with other workers at the strip club that she refers to as “fishing.” The plan is simple: collectively lure men from Wall Street into expensive bars and restaurants, slip heavy drugs and sedatives into their drinks, and usher them into the strip club to cash out on their credit cards and spend the money for themselves.
Not long after Destiny joins in on this plan, what starts out as a conniving idea among a small group of women soon transforms into an organized criminal ring that keeps afloat for about two years. For Destiny, with a restored friendship and more finances than she has ever seen, she feels that she and her community have conquered it all.
This intriguing story provides a very interesting and honest perspective into the lives of many sex workers who have been beaten down by the circumstances of life and now find themselves trapped in a field that is not generally understood or respected. Wu very accurately portrays a character who desires little but a sense of security for her own and a confidence in who she is. When paired with the ringleader Ramona whose personality is as domineering as it is enchanting, it is plain for the viewer to see how easily Destiny’s character becomes enthralled and almost dependent on her. She becomes very much accustomed to the illegal activities spearheaded by Ramona, of which she unfortunately fails to see the errors of until Ramona becomes hungrier for money and power – a flaw that marks an ugly turn in their relationship.
With its fast pacing, what “Hustlers” does right is portraying the ups and downs of friendship, one that effectively mirrors the pros and cons of modern-day sex work. Showcasing an endearing cast of talented actors among the likes of Constance Wu, Jennifer Lopez, Keke Palmer, Lili Reinhart, and cameos from Cardi B. and Lizzo, the film is a visually impressive treat.