Jennifer Lopez is getting major Oscar buzz for her performance in 'Hustlers' and it's fully deserved

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  • Jennifer Lopez gives a career-best performance in "Hustlers."
  • It's so good that buzz for the actress to receive an Oscar nomination for her performance has already begun.
  • Business Insider has seen the movie and the hype is deserved.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

The Toronto International Film Festival is where Oscar buzz often starts, and that is currently happening for Jennifer Lopez's performance in "Hustlers" (in theaters on Friday).

And if there's any justice in this world, you will see J-Lo on Oscar night vying for an Academy Award.

Even before "Hustlers" had its world premiere at TIFF on Saturday, there was chatter around the festival from people who had already seen the movie that Lopez was its emotional core and gave a career-best performance that warranted a serious Oscar run.

Cast member Jennifer Lopez arrives for the gala presentation of Hustlers at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) in Toronto, Ontario, Canada September 7, 2019.  REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni44th Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF)Reuters

Some industry insiders were in a state of shock when hearing this. But for others, the Lopez buzz had been a long time coming.

Lopez has been a Fly Girl (the dance troupe on the 1990s show "In Living Color"), a multi-platinum singer, a tabloid staple, and a sex symbol. But you likely don't know her best as a dramatic actress. I mean, she and Ben Affleck gave us "Gigli." But if you look closely at Lopez's acting career, she's shown glimpses of her dramatic chops.

Lopez gave a great performance playing US Marshal Karen Sisco in Steven Soderbergh's 1998 "Out of Sight." It showed her playing tough opposite Isaiah Washington when his character Kenneth asks if she wants to "tussle," and steamy when George Clooney's Jack Foley surprises her at a bar.

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And a year earlier, Lopez was the lead in the Selena Quintanilla-Perez biopic "Selena" and earned a Golden Globe nomination for her spot-on performance of the slain singer.

But few serious roles came her way after those. They were mostly rom-coms and the occasional thriller. Still, Lopez was one of the biggest celebrities on the planet. "Hustlers" certainly needed her more than she needed it. But it's this movie that's going to put Lopez into a category of actors she's never been in before.

Read more: The director of "Hustlers" describes the 3-year struggle to make her gritty gangster movie, and not let it turn into "'Ocean's 8' with strippers"

"Hustlers," which is based on the gripping 2015 New York magazine story "The Hustlers at Scores," follows a group of former strippers who, after the financial crisis, begin to turn the tables on Wall Street men they think took the country down by drugging them and then maxing out their credit cards. Lopez plays the ringleader of the group, Ramona.

Lopez owns the movie from her first moment on the screen. Ramona is confident and is the fantasy of every man in the movie, which is evident as a wave of dollar bills rains down when she takes the stage for the first time. But it's the following scene that is the first indication that the character is much more than that. While Ramona is on the roof smoking a cigarette, draped in a fur coat, the shy and inexperienced Destiny (Constance Wu) shows up. Ramona knows exactly what to do. "Here, get in," Ramona says as she opens her fur coat and gives Destiny some warmth. An instant bond is formed between the two that drives the rest of this rise-and-fall story.

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And within that story, writer-director Lorene Scafaria gives Lopez vulnerable material the actress has never gotten to work with before.

While working at a department store, Ramona cowers as she's talked down to when asking her boss to get out of work early. Then there's a scene later in the movie when she talks about her friendship with Destiny, though the two have had a falling out. The emotional performance Lopez gives in that scene is like nothing she's ever done on the screen before.

Scafaria told Business Insider that there was a time in the three-year quest to get the movie made that she could have started filming earlier, but it would have meant Lopez wouldn't be in the movie due to a scheduling conflict.

"I was like, 'Um, no,'" Scafaria said, sounding shocked that such a scenario was even brought up. "I can't imagine making this movie without her."

"Hustlers" would not be getting the critical acclaim it has (94% on Rotten Tomatoes) if Lopez didn't blow everyone away with the performance she gives.

Is there honestly any other benchmark needed for why she should be in the Oscar race?

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