Thursday , June 30 2022
Jennifer Lopez, Halftime, Amanda Micheli, Tribeca Film Festival
Jennifer Lopez in 'Halftime,' World Premiere at Tribeca Film Festival (courtesy of Tribeca FF and Netflix)

Tribeca Film Festival Documentary Review: ‘Halftime’ is Jennifer Lopez

Lopez’s Journey to Super Bowl 2020

In an interesting move, Jennifer Lopez joins Beyoncé and Demi Lovado as the celebrated subject of her own documentary. Halftime chronicles Lopez in her journey to fame and mega-stardom. Director Amanda Micheli cuts in video flashbacks with the key event Lopez is preparing for, the half-time show at the 2020 Super Bowl. In precise segments Halftime chronicles Lopez’s obstacles and triumphs. Indeed, The Super Bowl was a moment that she always fantasized about. With thematic breakdowns, Micheli follows Lopez beginning on the day of her 50th birthday celebrations. Zigzagging back and forth, the film concludes with the Super Bowl half-time show she co-headlined with Shakira in 2020.

In this world premiere which first screened at the Tribeca Film Festival 2022, Lopez deals with many problematic issues in both her personal life and her career. Focusing on the intersection of the two, Lopez comments in a confidential tone about the problems in naturalistic interview clips, without make-up and in a relaxed gym outfit. We understand a different portrait of Lopez from what the media reveals in tabloid exploitation of her relationships.

Flashbacks

Director Micheli employs an abundance of video clips that flash back to Lopez’s numerous films, tracing the trajectory of her career. Also included are family moments. For example we see siblings and parents 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. With an apparently close relationship, Lopez and her daughter rehearse and prep for the show with the dancers and singers.

Lopez highlights how her work morphed from dancing, after she reconciled with her mother’s beliefs 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 huge 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. She used her clout to stand up to management who wanted her to mute her vision decrying the kids in cages at the Southern Border. The show’s songs encouraged unity and equity and ended with “Born in the USA.” She intended it to uplift immigrants nationally. Indeed, Lopez’s courage stood against the fear-mongering of the former president’s cruel immigration policies. This segment reveals the same admirable courage and boldness Lopez has shown throughout her career and life.

A Chauvinistic Decision to Cast Two Latinas

In preparation for the show, we note her strength as 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 Lopez and Shakira to work with prodigious collaboration that created immense pressure for both performers. That they succeeded is a credit to their talent and hard work, something the officials and Philistine corporate sponsors will only understand if they see Halftime.

Though some will snark and whine that her 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 has 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. With effective counterpoint Halftime focuses on her startling achievements.

Also, the film spends time on the media’s creation of the fake woman’s perfect Anglo-Saxon look and appearance. Throughout her career the media ridiculed her figure. Lopez’s discussion of this rocks. All women have to measure up against the media’s prescribed BMI 17 curveless body. As a result they don’t fit the body images, which dooms them to self-loathing. With humor Lopez exposes the way women have been demeaned and objectified to make them vulnerable to further exploitation. Her authenticity allows all women who see this film to identify and feel uplifted.

Halftime is Jennifer Lopez as Authentic and Vibrant

Considering what Lopez overcame to arrive at her current success, her detractors have not even done one-eighth as much. The documentary shows Lopez’s enlightened perspective. Take it or leave it, the film stands on its own as informative, beyond entertaining, authentic and human. It 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 coordinate the first part of Lopez’s life. Halftime strikes a balance in revealing issues around being a Latina and being a woman. The self-exposé becomes intriguing. For example Lopez discusses how Cartoon TV ridiculed her as a bimbo. Clearly, the smear campaigns hurt, as she explains. 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.”

Mesmerizing Rehearsal Clips

Some of the most mesmerizing video clips feature Lopez during her rehearsals and training. They include clips from the half-time show rehearsals, and clips from practice sessions to prepare for her Oscar-nominated role in Hustlers. Additionally, we get to experience Lopez at the Oscars when she hopes to receive her first award since her nomination for Selena 20 years before. We note the disappointment for her and the team (whom she’s employed for years to do hair, make-up, etc.) when she doesn’t win.

Micheli covers tremendous ground to make a fine documentary. The portrait reveals Jennifer’s humanity like never before. We come to understand her genius, her tremendous talents as an actress, dancer, singer, entrepreneur, producer, mom, sister and more. What we don’t understand, Miceli avoids: her private romantic life. After all, the tabloids make it up as they go along. Her private life remains hers alone.

Halftime acquaints us with a Jennifer Lopez that fans who love her know well. It shows those who underestimated her a revelatory portrait of a woman determined to move through the next 50 years of her life making waves. Lopez indicates she has more to say, do, achieve. Halftime has whetted our appetites.

The film is streaming on Netflix beginning 14 June. Visit the Tribeca Film Festival website for tickets and times.

About Carole Di Tosti

Carole Di Tosti, Ph.D. is a published writer, playwright, novelist, poet. She owns and manages three well-established blogs: 'The Fat and the Skinny,' 'All Along the NYC Skyline' (https://caroleditosti.com/) 'A Christian Apologists' Sonnets.' She also manages the newly established 'Carole Di Tosti's Linchpin,' which is devoted to foreign theater reviews and guest reviews. She contributed articles to Technorati (310) on various trending topics from 2011-2013. To Blogcritics she has contributed 583+ reviews, interviews on films and theater predominately. Carole Di Tosti also has reviewed NYBG exhibits and wine events. She guest writes for 'Theater Pizzazz' and has contributed to 'T2Chronicles,' 'NY Theatre Wire' and other online publications. She covers NYC trending events and writes articles promoting advocacy. She professionally free-lanced for TMR and VERVE for 1 1/2 years. She was a former English Instructor. Her published dissertation is referenced in three books, two by Margo Ely, Ph.D. Her novel 'Peregrine: The Ceremony of Powers' will be on sale in January 2021. Her full length plays, 'Edgar,' 'The Painter on His Way to Work,' and 'Pandemics or How Maria Caught Her Vibe' are being submitted for representation and production.

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