“Yes, Jenny from the block!” shouted one Jennifer Lopez fan just as the lights began to dim for the world premiere of “Hustlers” on Saturday night.
The love for Lopez was widespread throughout the movie’s debut screening at the Toronto International Film Festival. Immediately after her grand entrance in the film, in which she performs a gravity-defying dance routine on the club’s cash-covered stage, the Roy Thomson Hall audience erupted into applause and cheers. That enthusiasm was repeated at the end of the film as Lopez, Constance Wu and the cast received a standing ovation throughout the entirety of the credits.
“I love the women in this film so much,” Wu told The Times. “So, the fact that that energy translated to the audience, that’s all we wanted.”
Lopez and Wu star in the true-crime drama as strippers who swindle wealthy Wall Street clientele. Keke Palmer, Lili Reinhart, Julia Stiles, Cardi B and Lizzo are also among the cast of the film, adapted from a viral 2015 New York Magazine article.
“It was a journey and a hustle to get this movie made,” writer-director Lorene Scafaria said while introducing the screening. She explained that the film was shot in only 29 days and wrapped in early May. “I finished it last week — I don’t know what I’m doing here!” she added with a laugh.
After introducing nearly the entire cast (sans music sensations Cardi B and Lizzo), Scafaria told the film’s first public audience something special about what they were about to see: “This movie is dedicated to strippers and sex workers everywhere.”
Though the day had been filled with rumors throughout King Street that Lopez would perform at the film’s premiere party, the after-midnight bash — hosted at Sofia in Toronto’s tony Yorkville neighborhood — simply included hits by Lopez and Cardi B throughout its playlist. Lopez, who is already earning supporting actress Oscar buzz for her revelatory performance, stayed seated at a heavily guarded table. Still, a stripper pole inside the bar became a popular prop for guests’ photos.
While most of the attendees were in high spirits, Roselyn Keo (the real-life inspiration for Wu’s character) wasn’t yet sure how to feel. “It’s so surreal, I’m still processing it,” she told The Times. “I was overwhelmed the first time I saw it. That was a time that I’ve tried to suppress in my memory, and people seeing it really makes it real again.”
That’s what Wu, who spent some time with Keo at the party, hopes will happen when “Hustlers” opens nationwide on Sept. 13. “Of course, I hope people have a good time,” she said. “But I also hope they come to care about these women they’re watching as people.”