Jennifer Lopez is going to be nominated for an Oscar and that’s all I want to talk about for the rest of the year.
For awhile there in the late 90s/early 00s, it seemed as if a woman couldn’t win a Best Actress Oscar unless she disguised her beauty somehow. Hillary Swank dropped down to 7% bodyfat and cut all her hair off to play a trans man. Halle Berry filmed the world’s most awkwardly drunk sex scene for her Oscar. Nicole Kidman wore a prosthetic nose and a dry wig as Virginia Woolfe. Charlize Theron was 30 pounds heavier with bad skin and fake teeth in Monster. The only exception to that run was Julia Roberts as Erin Brockovich, and coincidentally enough, Jennifer Lopez as Ramona in Hustlers has been compared to that performance.
I’ll be honest: It’s not very popular to be a Jennifer Lopez fan in many of the Black Internet Circles I participate in, largely because she’s a mediocre singer who has built a recording career from discarded or outright stolen tracks from Black women. I get it, I understand it, and I don’t wholly disagree with it, but that’s a conversation for another day.
I’m a fan of the Pop Culture Icon that is Jennifer Lopez. I love that this woman from the Bronx who is not outstanding at any one component of her persona has managed to stay this famous for this long with this much support. There are far better singers than JLo. Far better dancers. Far better actresses. And for all the praise her ass has gotten, there are far better butts. But there really is no better package for all of that than JLo and I’m impressed by people who can succeed based on the strength of their drive, work ethic, and personality. (Yes she’s beautiful with a big budget corporate machine behind her, but there are lots of women who are also beautiful with those same machines trying to push them and they never hit the level that Jennifer Lopez has even once, let alone over and over for twenty years.)
That’s a long lead in for a movie review, but I just want y’all to understand where I was coming from when I went to see Hustlers. I heard the “Oscar buzz” but not even the biggest fan in me would ever put “Jennifer Lopez” and “Academy Award” in the same breath because I know what I’m getting with her — average, yet entertaining.
Nothing about Jennifer Lopez is average in this movie. She doesn’t have a Viola Davis Crying Scene or an Angela Bassett Monologue because that’s not what this movie is and that’s not the actress she is. What she does have is complete authenticity. I believed she was a 35-year-old stripper (at 50!) from New York disgusted with Wall Street and scamming her way to a better life for her and her daughter. I believed she loved Destiny (Constance Wu) like a daughter, so much so that I teared up during the emotional climax. JLo made me almost cry. Jennifer Lopez was emoting through her acting to the point where I had tears in my eyes.
You could still, at this point, knock me over with a feather from that realization.
But alongside that, I want Jennifer Lopez to get an Oscar nomination because she did this.
At one point, JLo wore a silver bathing suit with a 2 inch strip of silver fabric covering her hoohah in a luxurious fur coat smoking a cigar in 8 inch heels with complete ease and not a hint of discomfort. Whereas Hollywood has no problem rewarding beautiful women for getting “ugly” for a “serious” role, there’s really no space for women who go the other route. JLo — unarguably a very beautiful woman — went even further with just six weeks to prepare for this role. There is no other actress in Hollywood who could have been Ramona, let alone a 50 year old mother of twins. Please name a single A-list actress who would have been comfortable in dental floss and bending over for the camera without a hint of self-consciousness. Jennifer Lopez has worked hard at being beautiful. Money and genes help obviously, but for all the praise we heap on women (and men) who change their bodies to be less attractive for their award-winning performances, we should also look at the other side and give props where props are due.
I want to make this plain, because I know the Internet is full of people who half-read and then throw loud opinions back: I’m not saying Jennifer Lopez deserves accolades because she’s beautiful. I’m saying Jennifer Lopez put in a spectacular acting performance (the way Charlize Theron does) while also embodying the role to a level of extreme physicality which is far outside the norm (the way Charlize Theron does) and she should be acknowledged for that the same way we would praise her had she gained 30 pounds and made her self UNattractive (the way Charlize Theron does).
And you can tell this movie was directed by a woman. Martin Scorcese passed on it and thank goddess he did because it would have been great, but it would have been grey. And serious. And sad. It would have been a crime movie about stripping. Instead, in Lorene Scafaria’s deft hands, we got a movie that is full of heart and emotion. It’s a family drama (a family of their own making) about women who happen to be strippers. It’s a movie where you root for the bad guys, but the bad guys are in bikinis and raising daughters instead of leather jackets and speeding away in cars.
I love an anti-hero. I love roles written for women in full control of their sexuality despite the circumstances. I love a movie led by women of color. And I love Jennifer Lopez having her Erin Brockovich moment. Hustlers really is the movie to see this season.
Other Hot Takes:
Cardi B. is magnetic. For all y’all who said she wasn’t in the trailer because she must have sucked in the movie…you could not be more wrong. And I’m very much looking forward to seeing more of Belcalis on the big screen (as long as she’s playing a round-the-way girl from the Bronx because that accent ain’t goin NOWHERE anytime soon).
THREE JANET JACKSON SONGS! Give them a Best Picture nomination just for that.
Lorene deserves a writing nomination for adapted screenplay and a directing nomination. She hit all the correct notes. It never dragged. Never moved too fast. Her pacing is fantastic and for a movie about strippers, it never felt exploitative (I’m never watching another movie with boobs in it unless it’s directed by a woman). ((I definitely just lied about that, but y’all feel the sentiment.))
When y’all say movies are too white, they aren’t suddenly multi-cultural just because there’s a Black lead. America is a melting pot. It’s not just white or Black. Hustlers is truly a multicultural cast. It stars four women: one Latina, one East Asian, one Black, and one white. That’s the Hollywood I want to see.
There are no men in this movie who matter. It’s really refreshing.