Pretty easily in the archives- director Lorene Scafaria get a powerhouse capital “S” Star performance out of Jennifer Lopez and gives us a Goodfellas-like/lite (description of the style, entertaining narrative, and rise and fall story-arch structure with that peak night with Usher in the strip club) 2-hours at the movies
Starts with a strong opening tracking shot on Constance Wu as her character and situation are so well introduced— trotted out as a stripper and cattle—the stylistic choice by Scafaria to make it a one-take tracking shot puts the viewer with her as she’s ogled, prodded and male-gazed upon—effective
Lopez blows us off the screen. The only time you can argue she’s been better (granted not a gigantic compliment) is with George Clooney in Soderbergh’s Out of Sight over 20 years ago (1998). She’s charismatic here and dominates our eyes- and not just because of her beauty—it’s her confidence, screen presence. Two blurbs from my two favorite critics I think- As Ramona, a one-woman supernova who reigns over a New York strip club, Lopez gives her most electrifying screen performance since “Out of Sight,” slipping the movie into her nonexistent pocket from the moment she strides out onto a neon-lighted stage in a rhinestone bodysuit. – Justin Chang _ Lost Angels Times— and then Travers at Rolling Stone— “If you want to know what a star’s entrance is — watch Lopez take the screen as if by divine right. As Ramona, a dancer who can work a pole better than rivals half her age, she slithers and shimmies on stage (to Fiona Apple’s “Criminal”) with a jaw-dropping finesse that’s as acrobatic as it is erotic.”
I can’t tell if its merely because of how good Lopez is but I think Constance Wu comes out of this film not looking so great- she’s our narrative vehicle here, the lead actress, and she isn’t big enough most of the time to sustain the Lopez blowback
Lopez’s work on the pole reminded me of a Cruise-performance back in like Taps with the bottles or even Color of Money with the pool-cue work. She’s so clearly at home and studied as a dancer—it’s impressive and helps the film/performance that you so clearly see her as that dancer.
The Goodfellas-influence is all over the place- Boogie Nights has it, American Hustle Casino (which is Scorsese of course), Blow, I, Tonya a few years ago, we have the voice-over, the flashbacks, the shifting of narration briefly within that flashback (we go with Lopez for a little bit), the strong pop/rock soundtrack, the rise and fall of the criminals on display, the tracking shots, there’s a great slow-motion montage of them drugging them men in the champagne room). In quality this is somewhere below American Hustle but ahead of Blow
Interesting sound choices in a couple spots. I really like the resourcefulness used when they choose to make it sound like an informant recording microphone when they are being set up and recorded by the police— another spot where there’s some creativity is they mute the audio completely when Wu turns off the tape recorder in a scene with Julia Stiles. I think that one is a little tougher to rationalize (I mean they aren’t being recorded on the phone conversation at the end but that’s not muted) but still. I respect the attempt to use film style for an effect
Lorde’s “Royals” is exceptionally used here as a music drop
I’m undecided on the “the whole country is a strip club” allegory—it’s a little on the nose but that’s not always bad- certainly reminds me of what Andrew Dominik is doing in 2012’s Killing Them Softly (though maybe not with quite the hammer Dominik is bringing down)– certainly trying to be Wolf of Wall Street or The Big Short
Hi. What did you think about Ad Astra ? Don’t see a review 🙁
@KidCharlemagne – I saw “Ad Astra”- hopefully the blog entry coming later today or tomorrow. I thought it was brilliant. One of the best films of 2019 so far. What did you think?
Haha i love it,thanks for the reply