The movie follows a group of strippers over the course of several years who experience the highs and lows of their profession with their biggest low being the 2008 financial crisis. Because most of their clients were Wall Steet professionals, their jobs tank along with the men in suits. Thus, the women in the movie have to resort to extreme, sometimes illegal measures to earn money.
The movie, which is based on the New York magazine article “The Hustlers At Scores,” stars Lopez as Ramona, a boss stripper who rallies the other ladies to make as much money as possible. The movie explores Ramona’s relationship with Constance Wu‘s character Destiny, who seeks guidance from Ramona in the stripper world while also caring for her elderly grandmother back home. Eventually, Ramona and Destiny’s relationship is challenged in a way that pits the two against each other in some well-played drama.
While the whole cast — which includes Keke Palmer, Cardi B, and Lizzo — deserves praise for their performances, J.Lo is getting the most attention for Oscar buzz. RogerEbert.com said J.Lo gave a “career-best performance” while The Hollywood Reporter wrote Lopez is “poised to land her first Oscar nom.”
So the only question remains, is J.Lo’s performance worth the hype?
Is it Oscar-worthy?
That depends on who you ask.
J.Lo was never a terrible actress, but her name was never really associated with critical acclaim either. Although she is to be commended for her multifaceted career in entertainment, recently J. Lo has had a few so-so rom-coms and television shows like Shades of Blue. Even J.Lo’s most solid performances risked being glossed over because of bad writing or weak character development.
However, with Hustlers, it’s quite possible J.Lo found a character made for her talents. Ramona was sexy and confident but also vulnerable at times and forceful when needed. The movie definitely shows J.Lo’s range as an actress and because the character was so central to the plot, J.Lo couldn’t help but shine.
Whether J.Lo’s performance is Oscar-worthy comes down to taste. If you like strong, powerhouse performances, this might not be it for you. If you like subtlety, this movie also might not be it. But if you like that middle sweet spot where the actress understands her character and great writing supports the final product, then J.Lo’s turn as Ramona might be right for you.
Considering the Academy tends to like that balance of powerhouse lead performances and a megastar’s rendition of a nuanced role, it wouldn’t be a surprise if J.Lo gets the nod.
We can only wait and find out if future competition risks taking the gold away from her.