Jennifer Lopez in an interesting move joins Beyoncé and Demi Lovado (see my SXSW review) as the celebrated subject of her own documentary in Halftime. Singularly, the film chronicles Lopez’s journey to fame in flashbacks cut with the key present event she aims for, the half-time show at the 2020 Super Bowl. Director Amanda Micheli in present to past to present video segments and clips chronicles how Lopez got to the Super Bowl moment that she always fantasized about. Thus, with thematic breakdowns, Micheli follows Lopez from the day of her 50th birthday celebrations to the Super Bowl half-time show she co-headlined with Shakira in 2020.
Importantly, in this World Premiere which first screened at Tribeca Film Festival, Lopez deals with many problematic issues in her upbringing and career. Centrally focusing on the intersection of both, Lopez comments about the issues in naturalistic interview clips without make-up and in a relaxed gym outfit. Briefly referring to tabloid exploitation of her relationships at various points, we understand a different portrait from what the media reveals.
Director Micheli employs an abundance of video clips that flashback to her numerous films, and trace the trajectory of her career. Also included are family moments, for example around the Thanksgiving dinner table, and a brief interview with her mom. Throughout, Lopez includes her daughter who also performs in the Super Bowl half-time show and rehearses with her to prep for the show.
Lopez highlights how her work morphed from dancing after she reconciled her mother’s thoughts that she couldn’t sing. With every opportunity that presented itself to her, she transformed. Now, she does it all, singing, acting, dancing, producing (Hustlers) and performing a monolithic show at Super Bowl 2020 that makes a statement for a global audience.
The director captures rehearsals for the show and delves into Lopez’s vision to make a political statement. Powerfully standing up to the management who wanted her to mute her vision decrying the kids in cages at the Southern Border, she used her klout. The show’s songs encouraged unity, equity and ended with “Born in the USA.” Her show’s vision uplifted immigrants nationally. Indeed, Lopez’s courage in standing against the fear mongering former president’s cruel immigration policies reveals the same admirable courage and boldness shown throughout her career and life.
In preparation for the show, we note she is an overcomer. Lopez discusses the difficulties in the chauvinistic decision to cast two Latinas to do the job of one performer. Indeed, they cut down their time and forced them to work with prodigious collaboration that created immense pressure for both performers. That they succeeded credits their talent, hard work and effort, something the officials, as Philistine corporates cluelessly benefited from.
Though some will be snarky and whine that criticism of her treatment by the tabloids, media and chauvinists amounts to victimization, that attitude too easily dismisses Lopez. In anticipation of this Micheli emphasizes that Lopez had to battle negativity her entire life as a Latina. Though the media demeaned her, ridiculed her “failed” relationships and underestimated her career, she accepted the challenge. Thus, with effective counterpoint Halftime focuses on her startling achievements.
Also, Micheli spends time on the media’s creation of the fake woman’s perfect Anglo Saxon look and appearance. Throughout her career the media ridiculeed her figure as a woman with curves. Lopez’s discussion of this rocks. All women have to measure up against the media’s prescribed BMI 17 weight. As a result they images doom they to fail. With humor Lopez exposes the way women have been demeaned and objectified to make them vulnerable for further exploitation. Her authenticity allows all women who see this film to identify.
Considering what Lopez overcame to arrive at her current destination, her detractors have not even done one-eighth as much. Importantly, Micheli and Lopez present Lopez’s overcoming perspective. Take it or leave it, the documentary stands on its own as informative, beyond entertaining, authentic and human. Vitally, Halftime inspires women and encourages them to strive, to persist and forge their own paths where none may exist.
Well structured, the film uses flashbacks to reveal her history and rise to fame. Halftime strikes a balance in revealing issues which Lopez takes up about her life, like being a Latina. The self-expose becomes intriguing. For example Lopez discusses how Cartoon TV ridiculed her and featured her as a Bimbo. Clearly, the smear campaigns hurt, as she explains in response to questions. On the other hand she relied on the strength she received from her mother and her heritage as a Puerto Rican. who could “do anything.”
Some of the most mesmerizing video clips feature Lopez during her rehearsals and training. They include clips for the Halftime show rehearsals, and clips from practice sessions to prepare for her Oscar-nominated role in Hustlers. Additionally, we get to experience Lopez discussing the Oscars and selecting outfits for the media campaign to win Best Supporting Actress for Hustlers. She is hopeful about receiving her first Oscar after her nomination for Selena twenty years before. When she doesn’t win, her disappointment and her team’s upset are acute. Her team (who she’s employed for years to do hair, make-up, etc.) ride the highs and lows of her career; this was a lowpoint.
Micheli covers tremendous ground. The portrait reveals Jennifer’s humanity, her expressed vulnerabilities and hurts which have informed her acting and performing. In understanding her genius, her tremendous talents as an actress, dancer, singer, entrepreneur, producer, mom, sister and much more we identify and are inspired. What we don’t understand, Miceli gives a wide birth: her private romantic life. After all, we don’t kiss and tell as tabloid fodder.
Halftime acquaints us with a Jennifer Lopez fans who love her know. It introduces those who underestimate her with a mosaic of myriad reflections of a woman determined to move through the next fifty years of her life (at least) making waves. Lopez indicates she has more to say, do, achieve. Halftime whets our appetites.
The excellent documentary streams on Neflix beginning the 14th of June. To review Tribeca Festival features go to their website: https://tribecafilm.com/ or see Tribeca At Home offerings: https://tribecafilm.com/festival/at-home