Halftime, Jennifer Lopez’s latest documentary, launched at the Tribeca Film Festival on Wednesday night and will be released on Netflix on June 14, purportedly depicts JLo at her mid-point: 50, scheduled for the Super Bowl, and on the campaign trail for an Oscar.
But what’s amazing about this portrait of Lopez is how much of it shows her nearly, but not quite, obtaining what she wants. Hustlers don’t win an Oscar, and it doesn’t even get nominated, owing to an Academy snub. The halftime concert is a success, but Lopez is forced to share stage time with Shakira, which is upsetting.
Even though JLo is very successful, she fights hard for an extra minute on stage. In this way, Halftime feels refreshingly honest, or at least as honest as pop star documentaries usually are; even though it can’t quite find its way to a satisfying overall story.
What Does Halftime Interpret?
Halftime is a movie that opens on Jennifer Lopez’s 50th birthday. It was directed by Amanda Micheli, whose 2017 documentary Vegas Baby had its world premiere at Tribeca. After blowing out candles in her trailer, she tells the camera she feels like her life is only just beginning. She is correct. Lopez has her best year in a long time, right after she turns 50.
First, there are the rave reviews and early Oscar buzz for her performance in Lorene Scafaria’s stripper crime drama, Hustlers. Then, she was chosen to be the main act at the Super Bowl LIV halftime show in Miami in 2020, along with Shakira. So, after a quick run-through of JLo’s early life, these two plots come to life: Will she win the Oscar? And will she pull off the halftime show of her dreams?
Since the documentary was made, Lopez has been in the news for another reason: her new relationship with Ben Affleck, now her husband. If you’re looking for gossip on that front, prepare to be disappointed. Affleck only appears once in the movie, in a 30-second talking-head clip that you can see in the movie’s trailer.
Neither Lopez nor Micheli are interested in seeing what the superstar does at home. This is not a magazine about stars. This is a movie about an artist who wants, more than anything, to be taken seriously.
Micheli shows exactly how the media machine planted the idea of an Oscar in Lopez’s mind on the subject of the Oscar. Lopez is very interested as her publicist reads her reviews from the premiere of Hustlers over FaceTime. People are praising Lopez for her performance, and Oscar talk is already heating up. Lopez reads the reviews on her phone while in a hotel bed. She cries when she reads that “it’s thrilling to see a criminally underrated performer get her due from prestige film outlets” in a review roundup in Glamour.
After being nominated for a Golden Globe, she tries on dress after dress for the ceremony. She finally chooses one with a big golden bow, which she says is the dress you don’t want to lose in. She wants this badly and doesn’t bother pretending otherwise. And when she loses the Golden Globe (which went to Laura Dern for Marriage Story) and doesn’t get nominated for an Academy Award, she is crushed. She says, “I just feel like I let everyone down.”
The Super Bowl
The Super Bowl is also a big event. It’s the biggest stage in show business and every performer’s dream, but Lopez tells one of her team members that it’s been “a nightmare from the start.” Here, you’ll see most of Lopez’s “diva” moments, like when she said the runway wasn’t good enough or when she begged on the phone for an extra minute on stage by saying, “I’m trying to give you something with substance, not just us out there shaking our fucking asses and doing fucking belly dances.” You can see why she is upset.
She has to share her time with Shakira, so she only has about six minutes to perform all of her hits. Most Super Bowl performers in the past had between 12 and 14 minutes. Her longtime manager Benny Medina frankly calls it “an insult. You need two Latinas to do what one performer has always done?” Lopez isn’t quite as angry, but she does say that having two people perform was “the worst idea ever” when she’s feeling down.
The Super Bowl part of the documentary also has a political story that isn’t fully formed. The sight of children in cages moved Lopez because of former President Trump’s plan to build more immigration detention camps. So she wants her daughter to sing “Let’s Get Loud” from a cage, along with other children in cages around the field, to make a strong statement at the show’s end.
But Medina says that the night before the big game, “the highest authority in the NFL” gives the order to cut the cages completely. Lopez pushes back and tells her manager to do whatever it takes to keep her message in the show, which she thinks is about people, not politics.
What Is Halftime Really About?
It is the most interesting part of the documentary, and Micheli could have pulled on a thread there. But Halftime isn’t about a political awakening like Taylor Swift’s 2020 album Miss Americana was. It’s also not a personal look behind the scenes at a superstar like Lady Gaga’s Five Foot Two.
But it is an honest picture of a performer in her fifties who has had a lot of success but still has to work hard every day to get noticed. Moreover, Micheli shows compassion for Lopez’s raw vulnerability by keeping track of her Ls. What could you want more from a movie about a pop star?
Where To Stream It?
On June 14, Halftime will be available to watch on Netflix.