Why ‘Hustlers’ is more than the ‘female version’ of ‘Goodfellas’ 

Olivia Wilde’s summer comedy Booksmart was quickly dubbed “the female Superbad” by publications like Vox and CinemaBlend after its release in May. Twitter users cited similarities between the two films, while Interview Magazine and InStyle both published articles about why the film is better than Superbad (2007). From the box office to marketing questions, the critically-acclaimed comedy presented challenges and debates among film fans. But arguably the most interesting question to come out of the Booksmart conversation is this: Should a film with women in lead roles merely be referred to as “the female version” of a male movie? 

“I mean, hopefully, we get to a point where every female movie doesn’t have to become the female version of a male film, but I loved Superbad,” Wilde told Yahoo Entertainment in early September. “I mean, in a certain sense, I’m like, we should be so lucky. I fucking love that movie. It’s amazing. But I did feel that we should stand alone. Hopefully, that’s a kind of pattern that we’ll grow out of. Movies don’t have to be the female version of anything. You know? And one day there will be a male Booksmart.”

Booksmart star Beanie Feldstein expressed mixed feelings about the comparison to the Hollywood Reporter in May. “[Superbad] is really showing male friendship at that age — in a really sweet, loving, sincere light — within this raucous, joyous comedy with so many great jokes, but it’s not about the jokes,” she said. “And we’re so honored to be compared to that…and the other half of me is like, ‘We need to stop saying that girl movies are girl versions of boy movies.’ It’s like, we’re just another movie.”

Director Lorene Scafaria’s Hustlers hits theaters this Friday, and is already drawing comparisons to Goodfellas (1990) from critics and cast members alike.

“When I first read it, I was like, ‘This is a lot like Goodfellas, because those guys are doing things that are objectively bad, but for some reason you like them,” actress Constance Wu told Variety and iHeart’s movie podcast the Big Ticket this week. “Goodfellas glamorizes the gang life. And while I think Hustlers has moments of glamour, what Lorene did was a little more complex than that.”

Early reviews in the New York Times and Variety also compare the true story of exotic dancers who turn the tables on wealthy Wall Street clients to Martin Scorcese’s Oscar-winning film.

Co-star Keke Palmer echoed the sentiment in a Wall Street Journal Magazine interview with the headline: The Women of Hustlers on Making a ‘Female Goodfellas.

“One of the first things that [Constance] said was, ‘It’s like a female Goodfellas,’ and I’m like ‘damn right!’ Lorene was really serious with the DP on getting those specific shots, those specific angles that you only see men have. It was just like, ‘Man, girl, thank you for those details. Not only does the script have heart and soul, but visually you’re going for this, you’re giving us a cinematic look. You’re making these women look cool!’ That was all specific to show us in powerful positions.” 

Filminist Pod host Alyssa Klein says that if Wu, Palmer and Scafaria don’t have a problem with Hustlers being called a “female” Goodfellas, neither does she. “Personally, it doesn’t bother me to hear something referred to as ‘the woman or girl version of xxxxx movie,’” Klein told FF2 Media via Twitter. “However, I defer to the creator of that movie. If they don’t like their work being referred to that way, then I would urge people not to describe it that way.” 

Klein added that calling something the “female” version of something else can actually have added benefits. “It’s a lot easier to make a comparison to a movie that people already know about. For many women and girls, hearing or reading that something is the feminist or woman/girl-centered version of one of their favorite movies might be the reason they seek it out. I’m all for that. But again, if the creator of that work has said that that sort of comparison bothers them, then I fully support them and would encourage others to drop the comparisons.”

“It’d be great if the films could stand alone rather than being compared to male counterparts that came before,” said Nicole Palermo, cofounder of Talking Back Pictures. “Wouldn’t that be like saying Serena Williams is the female version of Andre Agassi? Feels a little strange to say!” 

“I think comparisons are problematic in general,” The Women’s Direction blog added via Twitter. “Just describe the film as it is without trying to bring gender into it. If it’s a hilarious coming-of-age film for example, that should be why people are seeing it.” 

Hustlers hits theaters Sept. 13. 

© Georgiana E. Presecky (9/12/2019) FF2 Media

Featured photo: Lili Reinhart, Jennifer Lopez, Keke Palmer and Constance Wu star in Hustlers from director Lorene Scafaria. 

Middle photo: Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein star in Booksmart. 

Middle photo: Olivia Wilde directs Kaitlyn Dever in Booksmart. 

Bottom photo: Constance Wu, Frank Whaley and Jennifer Lopez in Hustlers.

Photos Courtesy of Andrew Hreha (Industry Art Works), Francois Duhamel (Vanity Fair) and STX Entertainment

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