‘Halftime’ review: JLo’s Netflix documentary captures her most vulnerable moments

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Jennifer Lopez’s new documentary, half time— which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival on Wednesday night and hits Netflix on June 14 — ostensibly captures JLo halfway through: turning 50, booked for the Super Bowl and campaigning for an Oscar. But what’s striking about this snapshot of the superstar is how much it stars Lopez almost, but not quite, getting what she wants. She didn’t win the Oscar for Hustlers– is not even nominated, thanks to a snub from the Academy. The halftime show is a hit, but comes with the frustrating caveat of Lopez being forced to split stage time with Shakira. Even at JLo’s level of success, she still fights tooth and nail for an extra minute on stage. In this way, half time feels refreshingly honest — or, at least, as honest as pop star documentaries tend to get — even if it can’t quite find its way to an overall satisfying narrative.

Directed by Amanda Micheli, whose 2017 documentary baby from vegas created in Tribeca in 2016, half time opens on Lopez’s 50th birthday. After blowing out the candles in her trailer, she tells the camera that she feels like her life is just beginning. She’s right. Shortly after turning 50, Lopez is having her biggest year in decades. First, there’s the rave reviews and early Oscar buzz for her performance in Lorene Scafaria’s crime drama, Hustlers. Then she headlined the 2020 Super Bowl LIV halftime show in Miami — well, co-headline, with Shakira. After taking a crash course in JLo’s early years, these two scenarios unfold: Will she win the Oscar? And will she pull off the halftime show of her dreams?

Of course, since filming the documentary, Lopez has been in the spotlight for another reason: her renewed relationship with her now-fiancé Ben Affleck. If you’re looking for gossip on this front, prepare to be disappointed. Affleck is featured in the film exactly once, in a 30-second talking head clip that you can watch in the trailer. It’s clear Lopez and Micheli aren’t interested in a behind-the-scenes look at the superstar’s family life. It’s not a celebrity tabloid. It’s a film about an artist who wants, more than anything, to be taken seriously.

On the Oscars front, Micheli shows exactly how the media machine has firmly entrenched the idea of ​​an Oscar in Lopez’s mind. Lopez listens intently on FaceTime as her publicist reads her reviews of the Hustlers first. The accolades for Lopez’s performance are lavish and Oscar buzz is already brewing. Lopez also reads the reviews herself, on her phone in a hotel bed, in tears as she reads a line in a recap article in Glamor that says « it’s thrilling to see a criminally underrated performer get her due to high-profile movie releases.” After her Golden Globe nomination, she tries on dress after dress for the ceremony, finally landing on one with a giant gold bow — the kind of dress, she wryly observes, in which we don’t want to get lost. wanna that, wrong, and don’t bother to pretend otherwise. And when the loss of the Globe (going instead to Laura Dern for Marriage story) and the Academy snub occur, she is clearly crushed. « I just feel like I’ve let everyone down, » she says.

MIAMI, FL - FEBRUARY 02: Shakira and Jennifer Lopez perform onstage during the Pepsi Super Bowl LIV Halftime Show at Hard Rock Stadium on February 02, 2020 in Miami,
Photo: Getty Images

Then there is the Super Bowl. It’s the biggest stage in entertainment, every entertainer’s dream, and yet, as Lopez tells one of his team members, « a nightmare from the start. » This is where you’ll see most of Lopez’s so-called diva moments, from stating the track isn’t good enough to pleading over the phone for an extra minute of stage time, « I’m trying to give you something with substance, not just us there shaking our fucking asses and doing fucking belly dancing. You understand his frustration. Because she splits her time with Shakira, she has about six minutes to cram all of her hits; while most previous Super Bowl performers got 12-14 minutes. His longtime manager, Benny Medina, candidly calls him “an insult. You need two Latin women to do what has always been done by one artist? Lopez isn’t as overtly angry, but she does say, in a low moment, that having two people play was « the worst idea ever. »

An underdeveloped political narrative also sneaks into the Super Bowl portion of the document. Lopez, struck by the image of children in cages under former President Trump’s expansion of migrant detention camps, wants to feature her own daughter singing « Let’s Get Loud » from a cage, along with others children in cages around the pitch, to make a powerful statement for the final. But the day before the big game, the order comes down from « the highest authority in the NFL », according to Medina, to completely cut the cages. Lopez pushes back, telling her manager to do whatever it takes to keep her message — which she says is about humanity, not politics — on the show. He does, and the cages remain, though perhaps they take on less prominence than originally intended.

This is the most interesting part of the documentary, and it feels like a thread that Micheli could have tugged at. But half time is not the story of a political awakening, like the 2020s miss american was for Taylor Swift. Nor is it an intimate view behind the curtain of a superstar, the way five foot two was for Lady Gaga. But it’s an honest portrait of an incredibly successful performer in her 50s who still struggles every day for recognition. Documenting her Ls, Micheli captures Lopez’s raw vulnerability with compassion. What more could you ask for from a pop star movie?

half time will begin streaming on Netflix on June 14.



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