Monday, April 22, 2024

Review: Jennifer Lopez’s Netflix Film “Halftime” is an Infomercial, Not a Documentary, a Half Notion


Jennifer Lopez is a hard worker, there’s no question about it. Can she sing? Eh, not so much. Can she dance? She can, and she obviously puts in the time to hone her physicality.

But JLo has also had three husbands, and three other major relationships that have occupied the news for almost three decades. In one of those relationships, she ran from a shoot out in a New York nightclub that resulted in her being arrested and spending 14 hours in jail. There was a settlement paid to those injured of $1.8 million, and a rapper took the rap and went to jail for her and Sean Combs.

None of that is included in “Halftime,” a glossy infomercial that opened the Tribeca (formerly Film) Festival and is now playing on Netflix. This is not a documentary. It’s a self congratulatory valediction created out of ego and hubris. And that makes it fun!

Yes, JLo is good with a stripper pole, and that’s nothing to sneeze at. Can she sing? She says yes, but doesn’t, not once, in this film. Every other singer I’ve known — and I’ve known a lot — sing even under their breath, a capella, sing little bits as they move about, it’s in their wiring. But it’s not an instinct for Lopez. Years ago, when her single “I’m Ready” with Ja Rule, hit the charts, I was called by the mother of singer Ashanti, who was JLo’s backup singer. The mother confirmed for me that it was Ashanti’s voice we were hearing on the record. Nearly every performance on TV, JLo has lip synced. What does her real, unadorned voice sound like? We will not find out in “Halftime.”

In the movie, Lopez is upset that she didn’t get an Oscar nomination for her work in “Hustlers,” the first decent movie she had in years. It was preceded by a lot of garbage. No one in the film tells her that just because you think you deserve an Oscar, you don’t get one. All the women who were nominated in 2020 for Best Supporting Actress had worked and had quality resumes. Acting wasn’t a sideline for them. But no one says that in “Halftime.”

The movie is mostly about Lopez’s 2020 Super Bowl appearance with Shakira. Here she’s upset that she has to share the stage with another performer. But JLo hasn’t had a hit in years. She never had that many chart hits in the first place. She’s only released 8 albums since 1999, and the cluster of top 10s was in the first three or four years. Ditto her singles. So sharing the time with Shakira isn’t a bad idea because a medley of JLo’s lip synced hits could be over in three to four minutes.

(Wait: the singing career? Invented by Tommy Mottola, who was married at the time to her rival, Mariah Carey. Eventually Mottola, according to witnesses and reports at the time, took a piece of music made for Mariah and gave it to JLo, triggering Mariah’s mental collapse and the end of her marriage. None of this is in the film, and neither is a mention of Mottola.)

She wants to sing “Born in the USA” with Shakira. So it’s not even one of her own songs. This doesn’t register with her. She thinks “I’m Still Standing” might be a good theme. “Let’s get Elton John,” she says. Except then it would be Elton John’s halftime show. He’s had lots of hits. And can sing. And play the piano.

None of this makes Jennifer Lopez a bad person. I met her when she was married to Marc Anthony. She seemed entirely agreeable. She has a tremendous work ethic, that’s clear. But a documentary and an infomercial are two different things, even if you let cameras into your home and say that your mom beat you as a child. (This claim is not explored, confirmed, or refuted. It just goes by, on the same level as, Mom doesn’t like to cook.)

So take “Halftime” for what it is. But as with most films commissioned by their subjects, it has no objectivity or curiosity and light on facts. It’s a half notion of a half film.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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