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Posts Tagged ‘Lorene Scafaria’

Constance Wu, Jennifer Lopez

“HUSTLERS” My rating: C+

109 minutes | MPAA rating: R

“Hustlers” arrives on a wave of fest-generated hype: It’s one of the year’s best!!!  Jennifer Lopez is a shoo-in for an Oscar nomination!!!

Uh, sorry, but I don’t see it.

Writer/director Lorene Scafaria’s film is ambitious, certainly, telling the fact-based story of a group of exotic dancers who in the decade after the big market meltdown reacted to economic challenges by luring, drugging and ripping off wealthy men, sometimes for as much as $50,000 a pop.

It offers a charismatic and glamorous turn from Lopez, who is compellingly watchable as the nurturing (until she isn’t) pole dancer/housemother of this group of female marauders. Even more of a revelation is Constance Wu (“Crazy Rich Asians”) as the new girl at the strip joint through whose eyes we witness it all.

But despite its welcome depiction of mutually supportive sisterhood, Scafaria’s film becomes bogged down in sticky moral entanglements.  Even more problematic, this is an emotionally chilly yarn exhibiting little warmth or open compassion for its characters.

Given that the few men depicted here are unsalvageable swine and the ladies are equally predatory…who are we supposed to root for?

The story begins in 2006 with Destiny (Wu) struggling to get into the swing of things at a noisy, dark, raunchy NYC exotic dancing club.  She’s quickly taken under the wing of Ramona (Lopez), who gives her an impressive tutorial of pole moves (I particularly liked “the table”) and coaches her in the art of squeezing money out of arrogant Wall Street sphincters.

But in the wake of the big crash the high rollers aren’t rolling much.  Ramona cooks up a special drug cocktail — it makes its victims gleefully happy while erasing their short-term memories — and with Destiny and a small crew of out-of-work dancers targets and rips off moneyed fat cats.

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Susan Sarandon, Rose Byrne

Susan Sarandon, Rose Byrne

“THE MEDDLER” My rating: C+

100 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

“The Meddler” is selling itself as one kind of cliche, when actually it’s a cliche of a different kind.

Marnie (Susan Sarandon) is a recent widow who has moved from her lifelong home of NYC to be with her screenwriter daughter
Lori (Rose Byrne) in sunny L.A.

TheBrooklynese-speaking Marnie is the sort of doting/smothering mama who shows up unexpectedly, lets herself into her daughter’s home with the key that is supposed to be used only for emergencies,  and dispenses unwanted advice about how Lori might deal with the breakup of her own long relationship.

Okay, we’ve seen this comedy before. Pushy mom, resisting child.

Except that “The Meddler,”  written and directed by Lorene Scafaria (“Seeking a Friend for the End of the World”), isn’t that movie at all.

When Lori leaves Los Angeles for a long location shoot, Marnie is left to her own devices and…and now we’ve got a drama about a widow exploring the options for the rest of her life.

That’s right, a drama. “The Meddler” is only nominally a comedy, if that.

Without Lori to fixate on, Marnie picks other targets. She befriends the Apple Store clerk (Jerrod Carmichael) who trains her to use her new iPhone; before long she’s talked him into enrolling at a local college and is even driving him back and forth to class.

 

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