Latina superstar Jennifer Lopez celebrated her 50th birthday in the debut screening of “Halftime” — the documentary which served as The Tribeca Festival’s opening night event. The film tracks her rise from generating Oscar buzz for the film “Hustlers” to her sizzling performance during the Super Bowl’s halftime show. After more than 20 years in the entertainment business as a superstar, this film illustrates Lopez’s multifaceted career.
“My whole life I’ve been battling and battling to be heard, to be seen, to be taken seriously,” is how Lopez recalled what to many considered a very accomplished set of skills. She called her Super Bowl showcase, “an incredible opportunity to show the world who I am.” Lopez makes clear that she’s extremely sensitive to comments about her whether they’re good or bad. At one point, she tears up seeing some of the praise for her performance in “Hustlers,” which she also produced.
As JLo said, “When I was a girl it was always engraved in my head that I wasn’t a singer.” She continued down memory lane, revealing that even at a tender age, Lopez never considered herself a singer but she loved musicals, especially the film “West Side Story” and Rita Moreno’s performance in it. To prove her worth — in contrast to her two sisters — Lopez fought with her mother and described her as a “super complicated” person. “She did what she had to do to survive, and it made her strong, but it also made her tough,” Lopez admitted. “She beat the shit out of us.” But her forceful parent, in raising the singer and her two siblings, offered her advice to avoid relying on men. Soon, Lopez had to leave home at 18 after a fight with her mom.
Throughout her career, as the Bronx-bred, Puerto Rican pop star repeats in the film, she was always fixated on a growing self-awareness and self-understanding. Through her first showbiz attempt as a “Fly Girl” in TV comedy/variety series, “In Living Color,” she launched her acting career which led to her appearance in the film, “Selena.” Lopez reflected on her professional highs and lows, leading to a career which was overshadowed by her personal life. Lopez consistently received critical media coverage. She showed how she continued to work hard to survive, mature, and improve in order to get to where she is now.
The highlight of Lopez’s career comes at the Toronto Film Festival premiere of “Hustlers,” the comedy-drama which features a group of strippers who join forces to bilk their sleazy Wall Street clients out of their money. Having spent a number of years wasting her undeniable gifts as an actress in some less stellar films, critics had slashed at her for being in too many mediocre productions.
Then a major offer came her way — the invitation to perform at the halftime show at Super Bowl LIV in Miami. But she was informed that there is one last-minute hitch to the deal; she has to accept as part of the roughly 12-minute-long performance slot, a second Latina superstar on the bill — Shakira.
Even though Lopez can be considered a rich subject for such a doc, Amanda Micheli’s direction made it feel like this film was little more than an overt service to her fans. There are no interviews conducted with anyone other than her family, friends, and closest associates from her manager Benny Medina, producing partner Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas, her music director, choreographer and so on. Most provide little more than a view of her as a brand or product rather than delivering new insights or revealing some of her dark side.
For most of the film, you feel like Lopez controlled the narrative, not so much to provide the storyline to her multifaceted career but for audiences to watch her victory lap. A major part of “Halftime” hinges on the fact that the whole world already knew about her as a superstar.
When you think about Lopez’s career throughout her wide-ranging history, there are many angles which could have provided inspiration for this movie, whether it be her commanding media image, her passion for crossing over to mainstream, and her showbiz triumphs. But it never feels like we’ve learned something engaging and newsworthy about the artist in the end. The film doesn’t need to show us her stats or the numbers to prove who she is. It doesn’t matter how many celebrity interviews you watch here, unless something sticks to the heart, you don’t remember anything once you leave the theater.
Here’s the trailer of the film.