There are so many fantastic moments in the new movie Hustlers, but one stands out above the rest to me. (Caution: Spoilers for the film ahead.) It's when Ramona (Jennifer Lopez) and Destiny (Constance Wu), two strippers fresh off making some serious cash, go shopping for a new car. Once they've settled on one they like—it's expensive, of course—they turn on the radio, and Britney Spears' "Gimme More" starts blasting. "That's my motherfuckin' song," Ramona says, her voice oozing with enthusiasm and excitement. This is directly followed by a money-making montage set to Spears' 2007 hit, in which we see Destiny, Ramona, and their stripper friends literally get more: more money, more clients, more everything. We watch the Wall Street dudes who frequent the strip clubs line their pockets, as well. The scene is rich: decadent, delicious, and totally indicative of the pre-financial crisis era it's set in.
This is just one example of how Hustlers uses sound to tell its story. The movie, based on The Cut's 2015 article "The Hustlers at Scores," centers on a group of strippers who used drugs, alcohol, and sheer sex appeal to scam their wealthy clients out of thousands. It's the type of story that demands a loud, epic soundtrack—and Hustlers certainly delivers.
"Most of the music choices were also written into the script," Lorene Scafaria, the movie's director, tells Glamour. "I had obviously imagined scenes to these songs, and we shot to these songs, but you never know if you're going to get the rights."
She did get the rights, thankfully, and the movie is better for it. The aforementioned money-making scene just wouldn't have popped the same way without Spears' breathy, distorted vocals. "['Gimme More'] was a song that was really a perfect time capsule of that era, both of the Wall Street guys and the girls working," Scafaria says. "Being able to intercut to that song was crucial."
"Crucial" is a perfect word to describe the music in Hustlers. All the sonic choices in this film feel deliberate and necessary. Take the fact that Ramona, a seasoned stripper, shows newcomer Destiny some tricks of the trade in a scene set to classical music. The takeaway? Pole-dancing is an art that requires the same level of talent and discipline as playing the piano.
Or how about Ramona's first dance in the film, set to "Criminal" by Fiona Apple. The song's title alone makes it perfect for Ramona, who eventually becomes a criminal, but read some of the lyrics: "It's a sad, sad world/When a girl will break a boy/Just because she can." The entire plot of Hustlers centers on women metaphorically "breaking" morally-corrupt men. Of course, their reasons are a bit deeper than "because they can," but the takeaway is the same. Scafaria could've picked any vacant electronic song to soundtrack this scene, but instead she chose something specific.
There are dozens of perfect moments like this in Hustlers. For example, when Ramona is eventually arrested, she's wearing a Juicy hoodie emblazoned with a crown—and the song playing in the background is Lorde's "Royals." Earlier in the movie, we see Destiny and Ramona tearfully embrace after years apart as Flo Rida's "Club Can't Handle Me" plays. It's a song that, at first, seems shallow, but remember: The strip club is where these women met and developed a friendship. Amidst their smoky, artificial surroundings they found a real, ironclad sisterhood. When you think about it like that, a club banger isn't just a logical choice for this reunion scene: It's a beautiful one.
The beauty of Hustlers' score goes beyond these song choices. It's in the small details, too, like when Destiny abruptly ends an interview with a journalist (Julia Stiles) and the movie's sound completely cuts out. It's dead silent for 30 solid seconds—a risky move, yes, but the payoff is chilling.
Equally-as-chilling is when Dawn (Madeline Brewer), one of Ramona's recruits, goes behind the group's back and stages a sting with the police, who eventually become privy to their crimes. During the sting itself, Dawn's voice is muffled—like you're hearing it from inside the cop van that's parked right across the street. It's nothing short of brilliant.
But I won't bore you with any more nerdy details like that. Instead, I'll leave you with the second-best music moment in Hustlers. It happens at the very beginning of the movie, when Destiny—shy, nervous, and awkward—works one of her first nights at the club. She's broke, unhappy, and determined to stand on her own two feet. Playing in the background is Janet Jackson's "Control," a song that's since become an anthem for women looking to claim (or reclaim) their power. Little does Destiny know she's about to meet Ramona, a woman who will change her life, and together they'll do just that. They'll regain control: of their lives, of men, and of the system. Now who said pop music was stupid?
Hustlers is now playing in theaters nationwide.
Christopher Rosa is the staff entertainment writer at Glamour. Follow him on Twitter @chrisrosa92.
Originally Appeared on Glamour