A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that greed is portrayed as good in Hustlers, which mixes themes of female empowerment and friendship with criminal, unethical behavior. It feels like the other side of The Wolf of Wall Street, focusing on New York strippers who manipulated and conned their stockbroker clients to the point of outright stealing. Thanks to the presence of aspirational celebrities like Jennifer Lopez, Constance Wu, Cardi B, Lizzo, and Keke Palmer, stripping comes across as the key to a glamorous life, in which women can get rich quick by using their sexuality as a weapon. Most of the men they scam are shown as sleazy, leering, gross, and corrupt, which suggests justification for the women's behavior. Yes, it's lots of fun and features a notably diverse cast, but it's also very mature: Expect drug and alcohol use/abuse, strong language ("f--k," "s--t," etc.), and sexual content -- including nudity, pole/lap dancing, prostitution, and more.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
HUSTLERS is a crime comedy based on a New York Magazine article. It focuses on single mom Destiny (Constance Wu) and her mentor, Ramona (Jennifer Lopez), who are high-end strippers at a club in New York City. It's not necessarily what they aspired to, but they have responsibilities (kids, an aging grandmother, etc.). After the 2008 economic crash cripples their legal income streams, they and their colleagues come up with a series of scams to steal money and credit cards from their wealthy Wall Street clients. Julia Stiles, Keke Palmer, and Lili Reinhart -- as well as singers Cardi B, Lizzo, and Usher -- also star.
Is it any good?
Chris Rock famously said that "a father has one job: to keep their daughter off the pole"; this movie could make that job a lot tougher. Lopez may do more in Hustlers to make stripping look appealing than Howard Stern did with porn actresses. Every move she makes is charged with self-confidence, sexual empowerment, and superior awesomeness -- and that's problematic for teens. She may be "Ramona," but she's also Jenny from the Block, and when she writhes on stage, showered and rolling in dollar bills, stripping becomes -- as Wu's Destiny describes it -- "glamorous and cool."
It may be that director Lorene Scafaria is too good at her job, creating enviable fun and feminist justice out of criminal acts. She knows how to push our buttons when it comes to craving female friendships, a feeling that's intensified by the inclusion of popular music personalities (like lovable Lizzo and outspoken Cardi B, who's confessed to participating in a similar scam when she worked as a stripper). The friendships between the women and their stage "mom" (it's been too long, Mercedes Ruehl!) in the club's back room are as warm as Ramona's fur coat, and the sisterhood they form seems more emotionally satisfying than any sorority. As an audience member, you know that the female empowerment isn't exactly on the level, and yet it demonstrates something many of us long for: a large group of friends who are affectionate, supportive, and judgment-free. But most of the women are also ethics-free, and as their activities dive deeper into behavior that's immoral and illegal, they find justifications that will hold water with some of those watching. Hustlers may be the #MeToo generation's Fatal Attraction: a cautionary tale that corruption has consequences -- just not for the women.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Hustlers portrays exotic dancers. Do you think it makes the job look fun/cool? How does the director remove the shame from stripping -- and do you think it's fair that society has traditionally looked down on women who do that for a living? What do you think are the real-life perils of the job?
Do the consequences (or lack thereof) that the women face for their criminal acts seem fair? The film questions whether the women's victims are worthy of our sympathy -- what do you think? Are they vigilantes, survivalists, or greedy criminals?
Why is it important to see diverse characters and role models in the media?
- In theaters: September 13, 2019
- On DVD or streaming: December 10, 2019
- Cast: Jennifer Lopez, Constance Wu, Julia Stiles
- Director: Lorene Scafaria
- Studio: STX Entertainment
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Friendship
- Run time: 107 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: pervasive sexual material, drug content, language and nudity
- Last updated: May 10, 2021
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