Whether you're standing in the theater lobby or curled up in bed, deciding what to watch next is often the most difficult part of any pop-culture junkie's day. And with dozens of films in theaters on any given weekend, plus virtually endless layers of streaming purgatory to sort through in search of your next binge-watch, there's more out there—and tougher decisions to make—than ever.
Fortune's here to help you navigate the week's latest offerings, boiling all the entertainment out there down into three distinct recommendations: should you see it, stream it, or skip it? Find out below.
SEE IT: 'Hustlers' (now in theaters)
This razzle-dazzle triumph centers on a group of strippers who hatch a morally murky get-rich-quick scheme at the expense of their Wall Street clientele, but it's more Scorsese than Showgirls.
Writer-director Lorene Scafaria even opens with a Steadicam tracking shot, following Destiny (Constance Wu) as she moves from the relative safety of backstage to the strip club floor. Coupled with Destiny's Henry Hill-esque narration, it's a Goodfellas reference made not out of deference but rather a desire to clarify the film's intention. Larceny in Lucite heels, Hustlers is a serious, sprawling crime epic that just so happens to be set at the club rather than Queens mobsters' backrooms of power.
Scafaria, for her stiletto-sharp script, adapted a 2015 New York magazine article by Jessica Pressler, about strippers accused of scamming male customers by drugging their cocktails, running up their credit card tabs, then dividing the spoils amongst themselves. Her film, a visually effervescent affair, makes it clear whose side she's on. And you're more than likely to share her perspective.
Hustlers is forthright and formidable in its depiction of female power, but it's also a righteously angry piece of filmmaking: angry at the ways women are asked to degrade themselves for a livable wage, at gendered systems that value women for their bodies and men for their accomplishments, and certainly at the leering investment bankers who robbed America blind then spent it at the club. But, thrillingly, it channels that anger into something magnificent: a working-class revenge fantasy in which long-underestimated women take back their agency, and then a little something extra for their troubles.
When Jennifer Lopez (Oscar-worthy as Ramona, the ringleader in a rhinestone G-string) first grips the pole, for a show-stopping dance set to Fiona Apple's pulsating "Criminal," it's a scene that belongs in the pantheon of great cinematic intros. As she spins and twirls, beguiling gravity along with the audience, Lopez is as in control of her craft as De Niro in Raging Bull, and she feels every bit as fearsome a warrior. Hustlers is her movie and a boisterous, whip-smart moment for the crime-caper genre.
STREAM IT: 'Unbelievable' (Netflix)
You won't see a tougher episode of television this year than the opening hour of Unbelievable, but this Netflix series—adapted from a Pulitzer-winning ProPublica investigation of sexual assault—is essential viewing nonetheless.
In the first of eight episodes, two detectives are called to a Washington apartment building for at-risk youth, where Marie (Kaitlyn Dever) is questioned, repeatedly, after reporting her rape to police. The clinical detachment with which she's treated, the lack of comfort she's afforded whilst recounting her trauma—inflicted by a stranger who broke in and threatened Marie's life before brutally assaulting her—is most stomach-churning in how credible it feels. The male detectives, callous and methodical, work more to poke holes in Marie's story than to pursue suspects. Instead of acknowledging how trauma can impede memory, and how there's no "wrong" way to process such an ordeal, they conclude Marie's lying and, eventually, pressure her into recanting.
This all unfolds within Unbelievable's heartbreaking, enraging first hour; it isn't until the next installment that we shift forward three years and across state lines, where two female detectives, Karen Duvall (Merritt Wever) and Grace Rasmussen (Toni Collette), are investigating a pair of rape cases in Colorado that bear unmistakable similarities to Marie's.
Unbelievable follows these two tracks simultaneously, all the better to understand how Marie's case was so grossly mishandled and what could have gone differently. The empathy Duvall and Rasmussen show victims isn't just morally the right thing to do— it's superior police work, comforting survivors so that they feel safe enough to process and articulate the exact nature of their trauma.
As their investigation continues, Duvall and Rasmussen gradually narrowing the suspect pool, Unbelievable ultimately leans closer to PSA than CSI. But its messages—about believing victims, understanding their trauma, and offering them the dignity of your attention—are important, and there's a slow-building power to the series' procedural structure. And Dever, Wever, and Collette—as the three women centered in this investigation—turn in performances every bit as compelling and committed as this material demands.
Unbelievable isn't a comfortable watch; even its title haunts, a cutting indictment of a legal process that places on trial the very people it's meant to protect. But in a year of television that's thoughtfully, upsettingly weighed the human toll wrought by broken bureaucratic systems, from Chernobyl to When They See Us, this series feels too timely to ignore.
SKIP IT: 'The Goldfinch' (now in theaters)
Donna Tartt's Pulitzer-winning doorstop of a novel was considered one of the great "unfilmable" works of American literature, and that likely won't change after this lavish but wholly inert adaptation.
Director John Crowley (Brooklyn) and cinematographer Roger Deakins (Prisoners, Sicario) approach Tartt's story—a decades-spanning saga involving stolen paintings, fake antiques, terrorist bombings, and a bespectacled kid named Theo—with all the reverence of museum curators selecting an opulent frame for the pride and joy of their collection.
But translating a book as sprawling as The Goldfinch into a film (even one clocking in at an interminable 149 minutes) shouldn't have been a matter of mere preservation. As pretty as the film looks, it's also static, stifled by its own portent, a butterfly mounted on a corkboard with wings spread.
This turns out to be a problem, given the amount of story involved. Crowley and screenwriter Peter Straughan move from New York's Upper East Side to the cracked soil of the Nevada desert, then back to New York and on to Amsterdam; but the range of locations has nothing on how many characters are herded through them, from bleary Russians to metropolitan cognoscenti and a kindly craftsman named Hobie.
Ansel Elgort (whose best performance in Baby Driver, barely requires him to speak) plays a grown-up Theo, the emotionally stunted axis around which The Goldfinch's dense tale of forgeries, drug trips, and dead moms revolves, and revolves, and revolves. He's at the head of a starry cast, including Oakes Fegley, Nicole Kidman, Jeffrey Wright, Finn Wolfhard, Sarah Paulson, Luke Wilson, and Denis O'Hare, all of whom do fine work playing characters who are borne in and out of the film, at the mercy of timelines less interwoven than tangled together in a somewhat intimidating knot. The Goldfinch is a stately, refined drama, filled with freshly pressed suits and piano-accompanied melancholia, and it's often pleasing to the senses. But the more you stand in front of this film, not involved by its characters nor drawn into their stories, the more it resembles a painting itself: beautiful but remote, and certainly not dynamic enough to warrant two-and-a-half hours of attentive study.
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