‘Halftime’ Review: Jennifer Lopez’s Compelling Netflix Documentary

Tribeca: The global icon may just be showing what she wants in Amanda Micheli’s Netflix documentary, but even that is often fascinating enough.

It’s easy to smile during the opening moments of Amanda Micheli’s “Halftime.” We watch Jennifer Lopez, global icon and multi-hyphenated talent, ready to perform in the 2020 Super Bowl eponymous halftime show – perfect makeup, big hair, shiny costumes, animated crowds – as her narration laments her lifelong quest to be sight, to be heard, to be taken seriously. Visa? He heard? Taken seriously? Girl you are a huge superstar!

The documentary also wants to tell us, as Lopez once said, that she’s still just Jenny on the block. The great surprise and joy of Micheli’s straightforward narrative is that, thanks to the intimate access and clever editing, we have sympathy for Lopez’s apparent case of imposter syndrome. For the performer – and, at some point, for her audience – it is very real. Even with her current string of accolades and successes, Lopez has never lost the desire to succeed (or, it seems, she has gained the ability to settle into the feeling of that success). If someone as talented and determined as Jennifer Lopez thinks she doesn’t measure up, we’re all screwed.

The documentary’s title refers to the shocking show the icon put on for the 2020 Super Bowl, but of course it’s also about his life as he celebrates his 50th birthday during the film’s opening credits. She tells her loved ones that she “feels like her life is just beginning”. Or maybe it’s only half full? Here’s to hope! Micheli’s film follows Lopez through a seminal year, starting in July 2019 before fast-forwarding six months as Lopez found himself juggling an awards campaign for “Hustlers” and fast-paced preparation for the halftime show.

There’s no doubt that the problems Lopez faces are of the champagne kind – “Will I be an Oscar nominee?” it’s really the height of upper-class worries—but Lopez feels the need to prove herself so deeply that eventually her worries become real drama. Micheli’s film is less than artistic, filled with limited talking heads (mostly Lopez’s business partners and his mother, coming soon), random flashbacks, the occasional archival footage, and a series of short sequences that could frame their own films ( particularly fast-cut segments about Lopez’s early years, his treatment by the press, the obsession with his body, the constant tabloid attention), but none of that is the attraction: it’s Lopez.

There’s never a moment when Lopez isn’t on screen, from interviews to behind-the-scenes footage that follows everything from costumes to dance practice, her trying to juggle being a mother with her huge career, even a revealing visit to a doctor who almost begs. for her to go slower. Lopez’s preparation at halftime is great, but nothing is as central as his long-running awards campaign for his work on Lorene Scafaria’s wonderful “Hustlers” (which Lopez also produced), which many believed would earn him an Oscar nomination. You know where this ends. Hard to smile at that imposter syndrome now, huh?

It’s hardly a warts production and all – even moments when Lopez gets a little grumpy are in service of her quest to do a good job, and will likely have audiences screaming, “Yaaaas, queen!” —but there are brief flashes of revelation. From the bruises that mar her legs as she learns to pole dance for “Hustlers” to the gentle way she teaches a routine to a bunch of young dancers, the real Lopez looks deeply human. A brief scene where her beaming friends and employees send a glamorous Lopez to the Golden Globes, where we all know she’s going to lose, really hurts.

Anyone looking for J-Lo gossip will be disappointed – while the film covers a period when the star was engaged to Alex Rodriguez, he appears only briefly in a quick montage in which Lopez clearly says the one thing she will share about her love. . life is that she had to learn to be there for herself first, to make her own home before looking for another. (Lopez’s current fiancé, Ben Affleck, appears as a speaker in just one segment, sharing his experience in understanding why the press can be so cruel to Lopez: “She said, ‘I’m Latina. female.'”)

Spicier are Lopez’s experiences putting together the halftime show, a major event that feels, frankly, doomed from the start. Lopez’s superpower (well, one of them) is her awareness of what people think of her – or perhaps more pointedly, what people think they can take away from her. When the NFL needed to show its supposed care for people of color after a series of controversies (Colin Kaepernick appears early, as well as clips that address then-President Trump’s adoration for building! that! wall!), they touched J- Lo for the halftime show. And then they also played Shakira, presumably thinking that having two Latinas were even better.

Lopez sees right through that. It’s cheap, it hurts both, it’s never been done before, and that means none of the stars are getting the full time previously allotted to other top attractions. Screw this. Lopez puts on an eye-popping show — even as she splits time equally with Shakira, who comes and go throughout the documentary — that has a big political message (admittedly, very new to her) as she decides to flood the countryside with little girls in cages. It’s not subtle, but when was Lopez subtle?

The film ends, both hysterically and appropriately, with a list of Lopez’s current accomplishments, from his record sales to his current philanthropic endeavors. She deserves these flowers – and so much more.

Serie B-

“Halftime” premiered at the 2022 Tribeca Film Festival. It will begin streaming on Netflix on Tuesday, June 14.

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