Hustlers First Reviews: Jennifer Lopez Is Oscar-Worthy in the Surprise Hit of the Toronto International Film Fest

Critics are calling Hustlers a thrilling, smart, and empowering crowdpleaser that plays like "Scorsese in stilettos."

by | September 8, 2019 | Comments

It’s been a while since Jennifer Lopez has generated Oscar buzz, so the kind of praise we’re seeing for the actress out of the Toronto International Film Festival may surprising at first. But her performance in Hustlers (2019) 87% is the talk of the town following its premiere Saturday night. Fortunately, the movie itself is getting positive reviews overall, too. The first batch of reviews from the festival note that this crime drama, adapted from a New York magazine article about a group of NYC strippers with a more-than-entrepreneurial streak, is not what it looks like based on the advertising. Hustlers is a classic underdog story and an award season crowdpleaser through and through. Its inspirations are far more Scorsese than Showgirls.

Here’s what critics are saying about Hustlers:

Wow, so the movie is better than expected?

“Everything you’ve seen so far is what is known as a ‘cheat’ in the marketing business…[this] is much deeper than all that glitters on the surface.” – Gregory Ellwood, The Playlist

Hustlers is a lot smarter than it initially looks.” – Stephen Whitty, Screen International

Hustlers is never anything less than energetic, freight-train-fast, and impeccably plotted…it’s also a welcome twist on the crime thriller genre and the ripped-from-the-headlines, can-you-believe-this-is real drama.” – Kate Erbland, IndieWire

“There are so many immediate pleasures and vicarious thrills to be had in Hustlers, a giddy, gaudy blast of a movie.” – Benjamin Lee, Guardian

We’re hearing Goodfellas comparisons: True?

“An incisive commentary on women in the workplace…surprisingly enough, it shares cinematic DNA with the 1981 juggernaut 9 to 5.” – Beandrea July, Hollywood Reporter

“[It] does for a gang of New Yawk bad girls what Goodfellas did for the mob…adapted by writer-director Lorene Scafaria at her most Scorsese.” – Peter Debruge, Variety

“Scorsese in stilettos, Goodfellas slathered in frosty lip gloss and body glitter, this is a must-see Girl’s Night Out movie.” – Courtney Howard, Fresh Fiction

“Scafaria’s direction is equally confident [with] an opening that’s Martin Scorsese by way of Paul Thomas Anderson.” Stephen Whitty, Screen International 

Hustlers soon blossoms into the kind of snappy sendup producer Adam McKay might make, with a deft and definite feminine touch.” – Kate Erbland, IndieWire

Hustlers is a crowdpleaser to its core.” – Hoai-Tran Bui, Slashfilm


(Photo by Motion Picture Artwork © 2019 STX Financing, LLC. All Rights Reserved.)

Is it empowering?

“Many filmmakers will say their film tackles female empowerment, but few do the legwork to make [it] an integral and authentic part of the story. Scafaria accomplishes that.” – Gregory Ellwood, The Playlist

“This slyly feminist movie pushes empowerment, too; it’s a film about being in control, not losing it.” – Stephen Whitty, Screen International

“Scafaria validates her heroines from the start by focusing on them as women whose internal struggles and friendships with each other are far more interesting than their obvious physical allure.” – Beandrea July, Hollywood Reporter

Hustlers represents an acrobatic celebration of unbridled femininity, in which liberated ladies take full advantage of the power they hold over men.” – Peter Debruge, Variety

“[Scafaria] re-contextualizes the way women’s bodies are looked at by almost completely ignoring the men in the room…Scafaria’s camera adopts the perspective of the women in the club, admiring the strength and athleticism of the work.”- Esther Zuckerman, Thrillist

“The film is so eager to double down on its messages of female empowerment that it ignores any of the seedy kitchen-sink realism that the beginning of the film gestures at.” – Hoai-Tran Bui, Slashfilm

J-Lo’s best performance to date?

“Not enough can be written about how stunning Lopez is in perhaps her best performance to date.” – Beandrea July, Hollywood Reporter

“It’s the sort of role that only a true movie star could pull off, so much of it reliant on a rare, intoxicating magnetism.” – Benjamin Lee, Guardian

“Yes, Lopez is THAT good.” – Anne Brodie, What She Said


(Photo by Motion Picture Artwork © 2019 STX Financing, LLC. All Rights Reserved.)

Wait, J-Lo is Oscar-level good?

“A full-force performance from Jennifer Lopez [is] genuinely deserving of awards consideration.” – Kate Erbland, IndieWire

“Awards attention would be deserved but a far greater result would be a more expansive set of roles in her future.” – Benjamin Lee, Guardian

“Scafaria assists by coaxing a performance out of Lopez that is so unexpectedly grounded and moving you’ll be walking out of the theater praying she doesn’t have to wait another 22 years to showcase her rich, dramatic talents again.” – Gregory Ellwood, The Playlist

How is the rest of the cast?

“[Constance] Wu, who broke out with…a rather flat and charmless turn in Crazy Rich Asians, is far more effective here, slickly switching between vulnerable and manipulative.” – Benjamin Lee, Guardian

“[Lopez is] matched excellently by Wu…she wavers between wryness, exhaustion, and affinity for the person who becomes her business partner and close friend.” – Esther  Zuckerman, Thrillist

“Cardi B’s relegated to a few early scenes and then shuffled offstage for the remainder of its running time..but boy, does she own the screen when she’s on.” – Sara Stewart, New York Post


(Photo by Motion Picture Artwork © 2019 STX Financing, LLC. All Rights Reserved.)

Does the movie have any problems?

“As the plan falls apart, Scafaria’s film almost follows…but it’s a brief dip.” – Benjamin Lee, Guardian

“It runs out of steam early on…there is nobody to root for here, an issue that leads to checking one’s watch midway through the show. ” – Sara Stewart, New York Post

“There’s an unnecessary wrap-around device…that lacks the innovation that Scafaria’s subjects have in spades.” – Courtney Howard, Fresh Fiction

“A number of the narrative transitions are wonky, some characters feel a bit too disposable, there is one particular reshoot that is glaringly noticeable…” – Gregory Ellwood, The Playlist

“Scafaria’s script is missing some of the edges of her earlier films…this picture feels a little too polished, a little safe…” – Stephen Whitty, Screen International

Should we pop a bottle and make a night of it?

“This is a movie made to be experienced with an audience.” – Beandrea July, Hollywood Reporter

Hustlers premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 7, 2019. It will be in theaters September 13, 2019.


Hustlers (2019)

Adjusted Score: 101.943%
Critics Consensus: Led by a career-best performance from Jennifer Lopez, Hustlers is a uniquely empowering heist drama with depth and intelligence to match its striking visual appeal.
Synopsis: Hustlers follows a crew of savvy former strip club employees who band together to turn the tables on their Wall... [More]
Directed By: Lorene Scafaria

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