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Halftime review: Jennifer Lopez, the insider-outsider

A new documentary paints Jennifer Lopez as a hugely successful star who hasn't yet gotten her due

Jennifer Lopez recieves the MTV Generation Award in California on 5 June 2022. Photo via AFP
Jennifer Lopez recieves the MTV Generation Award in California on 5 June 2022. Photo via AFP

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Halftime shows how at 50, Jennifer Lopez is still fighting to be taken seriously for all that she is: actress, singer, dancer, Latina.

JLo lies in bed, greasy hair in a bun, reading out a review of her latest film, Hustlers, to a friend on FaceTime. It’s one of the rare times in the movie that her voice breaks and she seems on the verge of tears, even though the review praises her for being “criminally underrated”.

Also read: Hustle review: Wish fulfillment hits the spot

This is Halftime’s strength, making you empathise with Lopez, one of the most successful artists in the world. The documentary follows JLo right after turning 50 in a hectic year where she produced and acted in Hustlers and headlined the Super Bowl halftime performance with Shakira. 

JLo is consistently striving, even at 50, but not quite getting her due. Though known for hits like Jenny From the Block and On the Floor, Lopez originally started her career as a dancer and an actress before foraying into music. Halftime shows Lopez getting passed over for an Academy Award nomination for supporting actress, despite critics saying she was a frontrunner for the award. Lopez is honest about her disappointment but also seems unsurprised by a film industry that can’t see beyond her image as a sexualised pop star constantly in the tabloids. Director Amanda Micheli provides evidence for why Lopez is so disillusioned. Clips of late night hosts like David Letterman objectifying her and South Park episodes lazily mocking her Puerto Rican heritage, with an animated taco imitating Lopez, make you cringe at the taunts JLo faced. 

Despite her massive success, Halftime’s portrayal of Lopez as the hardworking outsider behind the diva strikes a chord. She fangirls that Anna Wintour, the notoriously intimidating editor of Vogue magazine, smiled at her at Milan Fashion Week. Another masterful scene, showing Lopez’s grit, is when JLo lifts weights at the gym the day after the Golden Globes. 

The idea of Lopez as an outsider is especially apparent while conceptualising her Superbowl performance. In 2019, as customs officers in the US were separating children from their parents at the border, Lopez felt she had to start talking about politics. She was firm with the mostly white and Republican NFL owners that she would use her performance to make a political statement, with young Latina backup dancers performing in cages for part of the show. 

The focus of the film wavers at times, flitting between rehearsals for the halftime show and Lopez being snubbed by the Academy for Hustlers. However, Lopez’s disarming frankness, her passion for her work, and montages accompanied by her hits from the '90s will keep you watching. 

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