It's female empowerment in a tawdry context.
Jennifer Lopez plays Ramona, a 2005 New York strip club dancer who
understands that it's really not about sex, it's about power.
And the money is the measure. She
says “Everybody hustles. You're
either throwing the money or you're dancing.”
Well, with that sunny view of the world, we watch Ramona as she
pole-dances, being showered by dollar bills, as the new girl in the club,
Destiny (Constance Wu) watches with undisguised fascination.
She wants some of this action, especially as she experiences having
to tip the bartender, the manager, and even the bouncer out of her own tip
money, leaving her with little to support her ailing grandmother, who
raised her after her parents abandoned her.
(Yes, there's usually a hard-luck family story, but here we're not
really concentrating on that.) Ramona
instructs Destiny in the stage dance moves (which doesn't take long), and
advises her not to buy drinks from the house (let the clients buy drinks
for you). Ramona then portrays
the “clients” as a bunch of predators:
Wall Street sharks who've gotten rich while gambling with other
people's money (including police and firefighters pension funds).
They come to the club to blow off steam, but also to demonstrate
their superiority by throwing their money at the girls, in exchange for a
progression of personal performance, from erotic gyrating to individual
“lap dances.” Then there's
the “VIP rooms,” supposedly private, where men are willing to part
with even more money get a private viewing.
(Director Lorene Scafaria somehow manages to suggest all this with
little actual nudity, but a lot of graceless innudendo.)
Ramona figures that there's real money to be made by identifying
the “marks” with big credit card limits.
(Hint: don't look at
the suit, look at the shoes. And
the watch.) The married guys
make better “marks” because they probably don't want their wives to
know what they've been doing, and are also less likely to report anything
to the police, because they don't want to suffer the embarrassment.
So Ramona and her “sisters” from the club put on their party
girl act, pretending to get drunk along with the unsuspecting client, but
actually throwing their shots over their shoulders instead.
Then, when he's good and drunk, get him to sign his credit card
recepit, after running up a considerable tab, which the opportunistic
girls then divide among themselves.
All this might elicit some viewer sympathy if the dancers then went
home and supported their families, including their young children.
But instead, we see them spending lavishly on themselves, with
designer clothes and jewelry and purses, and buying expensive presents for
each other, all in the spirit of prosperous sisterhood.
(They're proud of being “hurricanes.”) But it all comes
crashing down in the recession of 2008, when suddenly the Wall Street
hotshots aren't so full of spending cash anymore.
Some of the girls even experience having to work a “real job”
(usually in retail, at minimum wage).
So Ramona and her new sisterhood (Destiny is worried about some of
the new recruits, who are addicts and criminals) now take their con
artistry one step further: they
drug their “marks,” ensuring that they'll get their hands on those
credit cards, still counting on the men to keep a guilty and embarrassed
silence about their being unwittingly fleeced.
Until a couple of guys do go to the police, which means the jig is
up for our erstwhile sisterhood. The
“real life” counterparts serve only weekend house confinement and
probation. But then, as the
movie points out, none of those Wall Street guys went to prison, either.
The viewer feels fleeced afterwards, as well.
We just spent our time watching others dance while we threw money
just to get in. So who's the