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(No spoilers but I am opinionated.)

I belong to a movie group from my church that sees new releases and goes to dinner following to discuss. Hearing that they planned to see the Hustlers, I warned them. Restricted movies loaded with f-bombs doesn’t phase them, and they do appreciate the controversial, if well done.

The trailer to this one was enough to inform me that it wasn’t well-made and not a theme I’d like, but to be fair, I gave it a chance. It was worse than I suspected. If were possible to give this piece of soft porn a no stars, I would, but for the pleasure of seeing Mercedes Ruehl. Didn’t recognize her at first, since she succumbed to the Hollywood pressure of youth and plastics. Or a bad makeup job on purpose.

The reasons for disliking this movie on a visceral level were many. It was peopled with unlikable, repellent characters. This can be overcome, such as Melissa McCarthy’s fine work in Can You Ever Forgive Me. But that was about Lee Israel, a complex, interesting person. These women are pathetic Kardashian wannbes, and considering that low bar…it can’t get any lower.

In an era of women reaching for equality, this schlock flick set the movement back a century. Or more. I’m not judging women who strip for income. Many do so to pay off college debt or feed their kids. My disgust with this film comes from the constant bombardment of smut and a rationalization that adulterous Wall Street types deserve to be ripped-off because they caused the 2008 market crash. Even that’s pathetic, because big banks, like Chase and Wells Fargo to name a few, were the cause.

Worse was the rehashing and repetition of the sex parties and the women celebrating their take with spraying champagne and shopping sprees, scenes that did nothing to move the story forward but did a great job of creating boredom.

I suppose guys, being visual, would not agree my opinion. Although I could feel the discomfort of the men in our group. They’re gentlemen. They avoid lechery and have no need to bolster their sense of masculinity via the debasement of others.

Every character in this film is a creep with exception of Destiny’s grandmother, the charming Wai Ching Ho. Even then the writers concocted a scene to diminish her. The acting throughout was competent, but whoever thinks that Lopez’s performance is Oscar worthy has never taken an acting course. She is competent.

I could go on but I won’t waste your time. I’ve already wasted mine seeing this piece of trash. Can’t blame objectifying men for his flick. It was written and directed by women looking for creds with the Hollywood overlords.

Now for something to clean the palette:

The Peanut Butter Falcon 

The trailer was enough to let it be known that this is not a great movie but an intriguing one. I hope it becomes a classic. The hang-up for me was Shia LaBeouf and Dakota Johnson, neither interesting performers, but happily in this case, were believable and accessible, likeable. Because of Zak, (Zack Gottsagen), they find the new life paths. Both are invested in Zak, protective and overprotective of a guy who needs none.

The writing is simplistic, which is sometimes not a bad thing. I had read that this fable-like film was written specifically for Gottsagen, whose strength of purpose and character carry the story arc. He has a strong presence on the screen that paired well with LaBeouf’s angst and Johnson’s floundering but well-intentioned obligation to a Down Syndrome client.

The only thing I found comparable to Mark Twain is floating on a raft. The setting and filming is atmospheric. One can almost smell the humidity and the river. Okay, there are a few cheesy parts, but easily forgivable. I will probably buy this when it comes out because of its charm and goodness of heart and because of that, five stars.

M.L Rigdon (aka Julia Donner)

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