Critics Consensus

Hustlers Is Certified Fresh

Plus, The Goldfinch is a disappointment, and Certified Fresh Brittany Runs a Marathon expands into wide release.

by | September 12, 2019 | Comments

This week at the movies, we’ve got clever dancers (Hustlers, starring Constance Wu and Jennifer Lopez), a meaningful painting (The Goldfinch, starring Ansel Elgort and Nicole Kidman), and a race for change (Brittany Runs a Marathon, starring Jillian Bell and Michaela Watkins). What are the critics saying?

Hustlers (2019) 88%

The Toronto International Film Festival has already seen the world premieres of several high-profile movies, including the latest from directors Rian Johnson and Taika Waititi, as well as the Tom Hanks-powered Mr. Rogers biopic and Eddie Murphy’s return to the big screen. But in between all the buzz for those films, we also got our first look at Hustlers, a based-on-true-events caper starring Jennifer Lopez and Constance Wu, which happens to open everywhere this week, and critics couldn’t be more pleasantly surprised. Loosely adapted from a New York Magazine piece published in 2015, the story revolves around a group of enterprising strippers at a New York City club, led by a seasoned vet (Lopez) and her eager protege (Wu), who decide to carry out some financial justice on their wealthy clientele in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. Critics say Hustlers is not only a satisfying chronicle of cosmic comeuppance, but also an intelligently crafted satire that’s smart enough not to let everyone off the hook, and most agree that Lopez’s performance in particular is worth the price of admission.

The Goldfinch (2019) 24%

Speaking of adaptations, The Goldfinch appears to illustrate — for the umpteenth time — how having all the right ingredients sometimes still isn’t enough to guarantee a successful transition from page to screen. The film is based on the eponymous 2013 novel, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction; it’s directed by John Crowley, whose last film, 2015’s Brooklyn, earned three Academy Award nominations and cemented Saoirse Ronan’s status as a perennial Oscar darling; it was shot by the legendary Roger Deakins, who most recently won an Oscar for his work on Blade Runner 2049; and it features a cast that includes rising star Ansel Elgort, Nicole Kidman, Jeffrey Wright, Sarah Paulson, Luke Wilson, and Denis O’Hare. Despite that impressive pedigree, critics say the film, which recounts the experiences of a young boy who grows up into a life of crime after his mother is killed in a bombing, is strangely drab and soulless. There are differing perspectives on why that’s the case — some point to wooden acting, others the sense of self-satisfaction, and still others the lack of dramatic heft — but most agree that the end product is a largely unsatisfying translation that misunderstands what made the source material so compelling.

Brittany Runs a Marathon (2019) 88%

Meanwhile, a smaller film that opened in just a handful of theaters a few weeks ago is expanding in hopes of attracting more eyeballs. The Cerfiied Fresh Brittany Runs a Marathon stars frequent scene-stealer Jilllian Bell in her first headlining role as a hard-partying New Yorker who, true to the film’s title, decides to turn her life around by training for the New York City Marathon to shed some weight. In the process, she struggles with issues that a wide swath of the audience is likely to find relatable, from career paralysis to relationship problems, and critics say Bell is more than up to the task. She’s proven in the past that she’s hilarious, but the role also offers her ample opportunity to infuse her character with nuance, and most agree she does so fantastically. While some concede that the story takes a couple of strange turns, they also find Bell and her co-stars (including Utkarsh Ambudkar, Michaela Watkins, and Lil Rel Howery) so charming that it isn’t difficult to overlook some of the film’s shortcomings. Brittany Runs a Marathon is a feel-good dramedy with fairly wide appeal, so if you weren’t able to see it before, now’s your chance.

Also Opening This Week In Limited Release

  • One Cut of the Dead (Kamera o tomeru na!) (2019) , a horror-comedy from Japan about a director who gets exactly what he wants when a real zombie apocalypse erupts as he is filming his own zombie flick, is Certified Fresh at 100%.
  • Chained for Life (2019) , a dark comedy about the relationship between an actress and her physically deformed co-star as they film a schlocky B-movie, is at 100%.
  • The Weekend (2019) , a romantic comedy about a woman whose friendship with her ex is tested when new people enter the picture during a weekend trip, is at 93%.
  • Neither Wolf Nor Dog (2019) , a drama about a writer who is forced into a road trip through Native American country after being hired to write about a Lakota elder, is at 92%.
  • Freaks (2019) , a sci-fi thriller about a sheltered 7-year-old girl living in a post-apocalyptic America populated by mutated humans, is Certified Fresh at 91%.
  • Depraved (2019) , Larry Fessenden‘s modern reinterpretation of Frankenstein about an army medic with PTSD who attempts to create a man out of spare body parts, is at 91%.
  • Empathy, Inc. (2019) , a sci-fi mystery about a man who invests in virtual reality technology, only to discover it isn’t as virtual as its creators claimed, is at 91%.
  • The Harvesters (2019) , a drama about the struggle for power that erupts between a young man in South Africa and the street orphan his mother brings home to raise, is at 89%.
  • Riot Girls (2019) , a sci-fi adventure about the rivalry that develops between two groups of teens that survive an outbreak that kills all the adults, is at 89%.
  • Monos (2019) , a drama charting the dissolution of a group of teenage commandos trying to survive in the jungles of South America with a hostage, is at 88%.
  • Moonlight Sonata: Deafness in Three Movements (2019) , filmmaker Irene Taylor Brodsky‘s documentary profile of her deaf son’s first experiences with cochlear implants, is at 85%.
  • Scarborough (2019) , a drama about two teacher-student couples having illicit affairs in the same hotel, is at 67%.
  • The Sound of Silence (2019) , starring Peter Sarsgaard and Rashida Jones in a drama about a man whose job it is to diagnose and fix discordant ambient noises as a form of therapy, is at 65%.
  • Liam Gallagher: As It Was (2019) , a documentary portrait of the controversial former frontman of Oasis, is at 60%.
  • Haunt (2019) , a horror film about a group of friends who sign up for an extreme haunted house experience and get more than they bargained for, is at 56%.
  • Seeds (2019) , a horror mystery about a man who tries desperately not to succumb to dark impulses when he is asked to care for his niece and nephew, is at 50%.

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