One of the fall’s most buzzed-about attractions, writer-director Lorene Scafaria’s Hustlers, is based on the true-life tale of a New York City-run ring of strippers who swindled wealthy clients out of hundreds of thousands of dollars, a story first reported in New York Magazine by Jessica Pressler. The juicy story and all-star cast has created hype among mainstream circles and New York insiders alike, and with surging box office numbers and a lot of headline-worthy debate—think sex workers weighing in on the film's portrayal and PETA sending a faux fur coat to Jennifer Lopez after seeing her wear a real one—the film is bound to remain a prominent cultural fixture this weekend and throughout this fall.
With a cast that includes the likes of Lopez—who is also one of the film’s producers—as well as Cardi B, Lizzo, and Constance Wu, the film has all the right ingredients for a blockbuster. But Showgirls this is not. “I’ve seen the strip club in every single TV show and movie, but everyone is so far from their perspective,” Scafaria notes, speaking of the film’s subjects.
At its heart, Hustlers is, for Scafaria, “a stripper movie about capitalism, a movie about single moms trying to survive.” She goes on to note, “It felt like a movie about gender roles and how they relate to the economy, and more.” When it came to casting the film, Scafaria’s choices are part of what makes Hustlers so buzzworthy, but they are also very true to life. Lopez—playing the films de facto stripper matriarch, Ramona—hails from the Bronx. And fellow Bronx native, Cardi B, who also stars in the film, has been very vocal about her time as a stripper before becoming the reigning Queen of Rap. As Scafaria tells it, “I had been chasing Cardi for the role for two years.” To be sure, Hustlers is a film that explores a very complex, highly charged subject matter, but as Scafaria observes, alongside the important conversations it’s sure to spark, “it’s also a really entertaining ride.”