By Christopher Redmond

Mailed on September 17, 2019

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Dear Molly Schaefer
Costume Shopper

Dear Molly,

I imagine some movies would be “fun” work for the Wardrobe department (sci-fi/fantasy epics, period costume dramas, etc), and some movies would just be fun. Like Hustlers. A film largely created by women, for women, that’s all about stripping and haute couture. It’s the kind of film that walks a delicate line between being wish fulfilment and a cautionary tale, expressed with unflinching confidence through seven-inch heels, status handbags, and chinchilla fur coats.

This clash of high and low brow could go wrong a hundred different ways. Dramatizing a true-life story where pole dancers scam rich Wall Street a-holes reeks of faux empowerment opportunities. Writer and director Lorene Scafaria side steps these landmines at every turn, providing what must be the best movie ever about exotic dancers (admittedly, that bar is ridiculously low). In fact, with the exception of Magic Mike, it might be the only other movie to actually get under all that bronzed skin to explore conflicting ideas of stripping as both an actual career and a means to an end.

A lot of that nuance can be attributed to the clothes you pulled off the rack. After all, exotic dancing attire is a whole other world of fashion. It’s intended to be worn temporarily, and with an almost exclusive purpose to titillate, making it easy to look down upon. Yet as viewers, we do the opposite - looking up at it on stage as a fetishistic sexual ideal. It all comes down to confidence. The confidence it takes to wear something so impractical, revealing, and flamboyant, is all part of what makes the ludicrous attractive. Which is part of the reason why women with such different body shapes as Jennifer Lopez (50!) Constance Wu, Lizzo, and Cardi B, all pull them off so perfectly. Whether it’s bejewelled nipple tassels, fishnet tank tops, or leopard skin short-shorts, it all just kind of... works. I bought it. I bought the whole crazy ensemble. Just like you.

Lopez plays queen bee, both as a character in the film and no doubt as an influence to the many performers in the cast. Aside from her unnatural ability to still be a world-class Fly Girl 30 years later, there’s an ease to Lopez’s performance that makes her as compelling to watch during the small personal moments as the ones where she’s doing the splits in a G-string. Her ability to keep us compelled in every scene is a testament to celebrity charisma, and a reminder how it’s too rarely exploited anymore in movies, with a few notable exceptions. That’s why movie stars actually matter. They seduce us into stories and characters that otherwise might be dismissed. And when they do it well, we throw a whole lot of money of them: no matter how silly the situation might seem with a bit of distance. Sometimes it’s just fun to get caught up in the moment.

Luckily, it seems everyone is getting their money’s worth out of Hustlers. The only scam might be if the film gets positioned as a serious awards contender. But if you aren’t looking for love, and just happy to be swept up in the bonds of black light and friendship for a couple hours, you’ll go home happy. I sure did.



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