‘Hustlers’ is a new, based-on-a-true-story, comedy-crime film directed by Lorene Scaforia which follows a group of New York strippers who drug Wall Street bankers and max out their credit cards at the strip club. It is set during the years following the economic crash of 2008 and stars Jennifer Lopez and Constance Wu. It is absolute thrash. I loved it.
I have been a J-Lo fan, from the moment she released the debut single ‘My love don’t cost a thing’ from her second album ‘J-Lo’ in 2000 (outside of Ireland ‘J-Lo’ stands for Jennifer Lopez, in the homeland J-Lo is Johnny Logan). That was such an absurd song – Jennifer miming in her reedy, little singing voice about how material things don’t matter to her. I didn’t know her personally but this paragon of selfless virtue directly contradicted her public persona of greed and materialism. When I pictured J-Lo, it was hanging out on a yacht with Puff Daddy, dripping in diamonds, luxuriating in fur coats, wearing statement dresses, drinking Cristal champagne and barking at her minions not to make eye-contact with her. The ludicrousness of her singing that she was just an ordinary girl was quite preposterous (although perhaps not as it was revealed later that allegedly J-Lo didn’t actually sing her songs, they were stolen from Mariah Carey, sung by Christina Milian and then released as J-Lo records).
The pinnacle of iconic ridiculousness from Ms. Lopez came with her classic hit ‘Jenny from the block’ about how she is still a down home girl from the Bronx. In the video, her life of excess with her real life fiance, movie-star fiance Ben Affleck (in 2002 he was at peak hotness and this was before he became a raddled, gambling addicted drunk) is declared an affectation and that she is an authentic and ordinary Puerto-Rican girl taking the 6 train from her hometown of the Bronx, Noo Yoik. To this day this is my theme song – I still sing ‘Don’t be fooled by the rocks that I got, I’m still, I’m still Murphy from Luimneach’ when declaring my realness to doubters (with the requisite false modesty).
And then there’s Jenny’s film career. To her credit she has never been precious about artistic credibility. She wants to be successful, and has a burning ambition to achieve that goal. Crowd pleasing romantic comedies like ‘The Wedding Planner’; ‘Maid in Manhattan’ and ‘Monster-in-Law’ are her forte. In many ways she is similar to Madonna – albeit far less successful in the field of singing – in that she pulled herself up by her bootstraps to the pinnacle of success with only the slightest dusting of actual talent. To my eyes she remains very likeable – despite her megalomaniacal ways.
Which brings us to ‘Hustlers’. At the age of fifty, and (presumably approaching menopause) J-Lo isn’t going quietly into the night. Oh no. For J-Lo this is the perfect time to make a stripper movie. In a way this is her her big ‘Fuck you’ to Hollywood. We often hear of how women over the age of forty in Hollywood find it difficult to get decent roles (or any roles at all). Meanwhile tragic old desperado Tom Cruise is making Top Gun 2 (despite being 35 years too old to play the part); and 47 year Ben Affleck routinely plays men married to women twenty years younger than he is and this is seen as perfectly normal. Why shouldn’t fifty year old J-Lo from the block, don those lucite, stripper heels and work that pole in the lapdancing club. It’s utterly absurd of course. Then again so is her entire career. I for one have a profound respect for her nuclear self belief and delusion.
The plot is slight. A gaggle of down on their luck strippers discover a scam to drug and rob Wall Street bankers. Endangering the lives of other human beings by drugging them unconscious, against their will is refigured as as empowering for the purposes of this film – the men are Wall Street scumbags, and the strippers love their children, want a better life for them and have a sisterhood. So all is OK. J-Lo looks spectacular of course. Bizarrely there has been talk of an Oscar nomination for her role in this cheesy plate of cheddar. This is probably a rumour placed by her PR company. In a way I hope it it is true. An Oscar for Jenny-from-the-Block for her role in the menopausal stripper movie would be poetic justice for the criticism she has endured during her glorious career.
Go see this film.