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Review by Rich Cline |
dir-scr Lorene Scafaria
prd Will Ferrell, Adam McKay, Jessica Elbaum, Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas, Jennifer Lopez, Benny Medina
with Constance Wu, Jennifer Lopez, Julia Stiles, Keke Palmer, Lili Reinhart, Cardi B, Lizzo, Mercedes Ruehl, Madeline Brewer, Wai Ching Ho, Emma Batiz, Scarlett Sher, Mette Towley
release US/UK 13.Sep.19
19/US STX 1h49
TORONTO FILM FEST
Based on a true story, this raucous film details a criminal enterprise with a distinctly female eye. But the script never quite digs beneath the surface to find a meaningful core to the story, cranking everything up so loudly that nothing is allowed to sink in. The cast goes for broke but, even though the events are compelling, writer-director Lorene Scafaria wears out the audience early on.
In 2007, Destiny (Wu) takes a job as a stripper in a high-end Wall Street nightclub. Taken under the wing of bendy veteran Ramona (Lopez), Destiny learns the secrets of pole and lap dancing. Then after their livelihood suffers in the recession following the financial crash of 2008, Ramona and Destiny devise a plot to fleece the financiers who caused the crash, drugging them and maxing out their credit cards. They're joined by Mercedes and Annabelle (Palmer and Reinhart), and they make a fortune before a series of events exposes them to the law.
The film is framed as journalist Elizabeth (Stiles) interviews Destiny, offering a personal perspective on the events. Although everyone is so sassy and sexy that they never quite become proper characters. Ramona has a daughter (Batiz), and later Destiny does as well (Sher), but they find it rather easy to mute their maternal instincts. And virtually all of the men are leering, groping drunks who basically deserve whatever they get.
Wu and a particularly on-fire Lopez have strong chemistry, and have a lot of fun parading around in revealing clothing and playfully hamming up their sexuality. Yet despite tough financial circumstances, their only motivation seems to be greed. But why do they dress like cheap hookers to seduce wealthy businessmen in posh bars? Palmer and Reinhart are the only other proper characters, even if they're too sketchy to resonate (Annabelle's constant vomiting is neither funny nor revealing).
Everyone has plenty of screen presence, but no one is likeable; we root for them because they've been so blatantly oppressed. So the broad performances and Scafaria's slick, gleefully decadent filmmaking style somewhat muddles any message that might be lurking in here. There are nice observations along the way, such as the depiction of the addictive nature of sting operations, plus the fact that, no matter how big the haul, there's still never quite enough money. These women unapologetically love being rich, but they never seem to realise that attacking vile men isn't actually a way forward.
R E A D E R R E V I E W SStill waiting for your comments ... don't be shy.
© 2019 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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