Hustlers | Movie Review

Hustlers | Movie Review


Hollywood generally isn’t very good at making
films. Oh sorry. I guess I was supposed to say more than that. Hollywood generally isn’t very good at making
films about sex workers. In our culture, sex work carries a stigma. As a broad umbrella term about stripping,
exotic dancing, and prostitution, sex work is essentially societal taboo. It’s criminalized in most countries, and in
America, sex work is legislated to either be burdensomely regulated or illegal. There may be some moral rationale for this
type of legislation i.e. preventing sex trafficking, but the truth is that our current laws criminalizing
sex work under the guise of combating bad actors, puts sex workers both at financial
risk and physically precarious positions. Take 2018’s Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act
or FOSTA or SESTA as an example. The purpose of the bill was to fight illegal
sex trafficking, at least that was what it was described to do. The bill had bipartisan support. It passed in the Senate 97 to 2 with one of
those Nay votes being Rand Paul of all people, and it was signed into law by President Trump. And FOSTA and SESTA were a big mistake. Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon explained his
vote against FOSTA and SESTA as follows: “History shows that politicians have been remarkably
bad at solving technological problems… This bill will only prop up the entrenched
players who are rapidly losing the public’s trust. The failure to understand the technological
side effects of this bill -specifically that it will become harder to expose sex-traffickers,
while hamstringing innovation- will be something that this congress will regret.” “The bill passed today by the House will make
it harder to catch bad actors and protect victims by driving this vile crime to shadowy
corners of society that are harder for law enforcement to reach.” The purpose of FOSTA and SESTA were more or
less to make platform holders on the internet say Twitter or Tumblr legally liable for sex
trafficking and or sex work that is solicited on those said platforms. However, this approach to combating sex trafficking
was very problematic as stated in a 2018 Vice article that echoed those sentiments. Per the article: “It could be months- or as
late as January 2019- before FOSTA is enacted and anyone could be charged under the law. But even in the days immediately after the
bill passed in Congress, platforms started scrambling to proactively shut down forums
or whole sites where sex trafficking could feasibly happen. Fringe dating websites, sex trade and advertising
forums, and even portions of Craigslist were taken down in the weeks following, while companies
like Google started strictly enforcing terms of service around sexual speech. One of the websites key to the FOSTA debate
was Backpage, a site where users posted advertisements, frequently for sexual services. Federal authorities seized Backpage on Monday,
two days before Trump even signed [the bill], demonstrating that the FBI never really needed
FOSTA’s backing to indict the site to begin with. Lola, a community organizer with Survivors
Against SESTA, told [Vice] in a Signal message that this is literally a life-or-death law
for sex workers. To quote her: “I know so many people who were
able to start working indoors or leave their exploitative situations because of Backpage
and Craigslist,” [She told Vice]. “They were able to screen for clients and
keep themselves safe and save up money to leave the people exploiting them. And now that those sites are down, people
are going back to pimps. Pimps are texting providers every day saying
‘the game’s changed. You need me.” End quote. It’s a tale as old as America. Making laws under the guise of fighting bad
actors that end up harming the innocent. And with those problems in the background,
we have Hustlers: a new film by director Lorene Scafaria and stars Constance Wu as Destiny
and Jennifer Lopez as Ramona. Based on the true story and an article written
by Jessical Pressler. The movie follows the exploits of night club
dancers Destiny and Ramona who eventually start an illegal racket after the market crash
of 2008. Their racket involves drugging wealthy men,
taking them back to the night club, and maxing out their credit cards. One of the few unethical business models that
the games industry won’t engage in. FOR NOW. As a movie Hustlers is terrific on multiple
fronts. The most notable of which is how the film
works both as a crime drama and a heartfelt narrative about sisterhood. On the one hand, you have this great Martin
Scorsese style film adaptation of a criminal enterprise starting from occupational and
monetary necessity that steady and eventually evolves into a criminal enterprise. And on the other hand, Hustlers is a rare
movie told from a woman’s perspective and restricts male viewpoints to the plot’s periphery. As a result, Hustlers can feel very intense
at times but also very heartwarming which is a really odd dynamic but it works really
well in this film. Despite the serious crimes these women are
committing, watching the strong bonds of sisterhood take hold is an absolute joy. The performances by Constance Wu and Jennifer
Lopez are electric. The duo have terrific chemistry and play off
well in both comedic and dramatic moments. Mostly because Lopezs’ character of Ramona
is written to be a risk taker while Wu’s Destiny is more careful and deliberate which makes
for some terrific tennis court style exchanges. However, the crimes they’re committing are
still taken very seriously. Hustlers doesn’t mince words: what the women
are doing is portrayed as wrong. To highlight how Ramona’s and Destiny’s crimes
surpass the moral territory of need as these characters drive head first into greed. Even as Destiny really tries to reassure herself
as well as the reporter covering her story played by Julia Stiles, that what she is doing
is ethical. Hustlers takes the correct approach by saying
that what they’re doing is unethical but isn’t really that much different than say what Wall
Street was doing. They’re just trying to scam money out of some
poor sucker, and as a result, while these motives don’t make the characters sympathetic,
they do make them understandable. Sex work, whatever the occupation, is a precarious
field, and when contrasted with Ramona’s and Destiny’s clientelle of Wall Street’s devilish
stock traders, it’s ridiculous how their crimes are seen as more heinous those who caused
a financial disaster ruining many careers and lives akin to Waterworld. Should we really feel that bad for Hustlers
hustling Hustlers? Who hustles the hustlers? Get it it’s like a Watchmen thing. Like who watches the Watchmen. You get it. Ok fuck it. In terms of sex worker representation, Hustlers
navigates through a potential minefield of potential controversy in ways that are hit
and miss. With in the sex worker community the opinion
of the film’s depiction is split. The film’s production featured many women
with experience in the field like Cardi B and featured actual dancers. The film is considered to have mostly done
a good job even though the real life inspiration for Ramona didn’t care fore J-Lo’s interpretation
of her person. Some laud the film for finally showing some
truth to the real life experiences while others criticize specific thematic and narrative
aspects of the portrayal of life as a sex worker. And this isn’t something I can really give
a statement on whether something is done correctly or wrongly. This is up to people who have lived that experience
and know what it’s like which I don’t. I’ve never had to do sex work before so my
opinion on this aspect of the movie is very secondary. Even beyond secondary like third, fourth,
fifth, maybe even sixth. I can only say that I liked the film which
I did a lot. However, the business aspect behind the film
is being criticized heavily and for good reason. Capitalism tends to suck and doesn’t understand
nuance. The club that the film shot in for a few days
was closed and many women who worked there weren’t appropriately compensated for the
time forced away from work. For a film about how sex workers are monetarily
taken advantage of, that is an absolutely terrible look. That’s even worse than a television show raging
against capitalism that’s hosted on Amazon Prime. “In a phone conversation with Rolling Stone,
Gizell Marie, a black stripper and sex-workers’ rights advocate in the Bronx who founded the
NYCStripperStrike campaign, says she has spoken with many of the club’s employees, and that
they were informed two weeks before shooting that the club would be shut down for filming,
and were given the opportunity to audition for the film. But she agrees that the employees who weren’t
hired as extras for Hustlers should’ve been compensated for lost work. New York city-based dancers, she says, have
relatively few options in terms of finding employment” quick note: the movie actually
addressed this financial conundrum as well “New York City – based dancers she says, have
relatively few options in terms of finding employment, and that is particularly true
of women of color, as many upscale clubs have a cap on how many women of color are supposed
to dance on a given night.” Rolling Stone quotes her: “That’s these girls
livelihoods on the line,” she says. Though she doesn’t blame the Hustlers crew
for this as much as the current employment laws in place that do little to protect dancers. She says: “As far as being protected financially
or getting paid, people feel like we are disposable.” Amazingly enough the controversy about sex
workers not getting paid for a movie about sex workers not getting paid was not the only
controversy that this film landed itself in. Corporate social media accounts that aren’t
Wendy’s can be extremely tone deaf and have an inability to read the room at times, and
this is sadly true of an ill advised marketing campaign for Hustlers dubbed Tweet Your Hustle
which is yet another bad look in an era post FOSTA and SESTA. You know the laws that make it really hard
to Tweet about Hustling. Fart noises. Great job team. oops. With that said, I’m happy with Hustlers as
a film. It’s a damn good movie in terms of being the
complete package of terrific acting and dramatic story telling, and criticisms about its marketing
and in movie narrative choices from the sex worker community are enlightening. I found it a great way to learn more about
topics that I’m pretty much ignorant of. So Hustlers: yes I recommend. It’s very good movie worth seeing and also
one that’s worth reading about afterward. See ya.

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