Sure, the bulk of Oscar buzz for “Hustlers” is going to Jennifer Lopez‘s career comeback performance as a stripper who takes advantage of wealthy men, but what about the film’s writer-director, Lorene Scafaria? The box office hit could land the veteran filmmaker her very first Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay.
Scafaria has made a name for herself in the independent film scene in recent years, writing and directing “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World” (2012) and “The Meddler” (2015) and penning the script for “Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist” (2008). She reached new critical and commercial heights with this fact-based drama about New York City strippers (led by Lopez and Constance Wu) who rip off wealthy Wall Streeters to keep themselves afloat after the 2008 financial crash. The film, which grossed over $100 million off a $20 million budget, has already been rewarded with a Gotham Award nomination for Best Feature, so why shouldn’t the Oscars take notice next?
In adapting Jessica Pressler‘s New York Magazine article, Scafaria has made a sort of female “GoodFellas” (1990), using voice-over narration and flashbacks to create an energetic, darkly humorous crime drama in the Martin Scorsese mold. It’s also deeply human, with much of the story hinging on whether this sisterhood between up-and-comer Destiny (Wu) and seasoned pro Ramona (Lopez) can survive their new lifestyle.
SEE Todd Banhazl interview: ‘Hustlers’ cinematographer
There’s a great deal of social relevance to the screenplay as well, particularly in how it dissects gender and class dynamics. It’s not hard to see why Scafaria would want to tell a story about enterprising women taking back control from scummy men in the age of #MeToo. On top of that, it also involves the working class sticking it to the filthy rich in an age of staggering wealth inequality.
So “Hustlers” ends up being a movie with a message, albeit one that’s entertaining, funny and touching instead of preachy. That’s a screenwriting achievement that could certainly appeal to the writers branch of the academy, bringing some welcome female empowerment to the Oscar race.
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