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J.Lo can't stop telling us about herself. Why can't I stop watching?

Jennifer Lopez's latest film is a direct-to-streaming musical extravaganza called <em>This Is Me...Now: A Love Story.</em>
Jennifer Lopez's latest film is a direct-to-streaming musical extravaganza called This Is Me...Now: A Love Story.

I had barely cycled through my Usher-Beyoncé-Taylor induced pop culture hangover from the Super Bowl when it was time to receive the latest offering from yet another omnipresent star, Jennifer Lopez. Her newest film, This Is Me... Now: A Love Story, now streaming on Amazon Prime Video, is a movie musical/visual album starring and co-written by Lopez herself and directed by music video veteran Dave Meyers. It's a sparkling temple to the self, disguised as a romantic odyssey — and quintessentially Lopez.

The 65-minute film follows the tortured love life of a somewhat fictional version of Lopez, a character I'll hereafter refer to as J.Lo. Like the real Lopez, J.Lo is gorgeous, wealthy and has a reputation as a hopeless romantic on the hunt for her one true love. It's autofiction in the vein of Richard Pryor's Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life Is Calling, but with the silliness of Mariah Carey's Glitter and the subtlety of the music video for Kanye West's "Bound 2". Days after watching This Is Me...Now, I'm still not sure whether or not it was good, or if a one word summation is even a fair way to assess the hour-long (and self-financed) $20 million art therapy session Lopez has produced.

Like many of her most beloved movies, This Is Me...Now is campy, nonsensical, and easy to watch. Still, for every rote monologue from J.Lo about the virtues of forever love, a few rays of Lopez's genuine charisma and onscreen chops shine through reassuringly.

We see J.Lo trace her romantic troubles back to the 1970s Bronx of her girlhood, unpack them in therapy sessions with a practitioner played by rapper Fat Joe, and augment them through a tongue-in-cheek carousel of splashy weddings and couples counseling sessions with various unnamed husbands. Weddings are a perennial theme for Lopez, who has married four times and played a bride on at least twice as many occasions for a film. It's a phenomenon I detangled with critic Rachel Handlerin an episode of my show It's Been A Minute from last year.

In this latest portrayal, judging J.Lo's relationship foibles from heaven above are members of her own personal Zodiac council, played by Jane Fonda, Post Malone, Neil deGrasse Tyson and Keke Palmer, among others. In between sparse bits of dialogue, J.Lo coos and sashays along to serviceable R&B-tinged songs from her first new album in a decade, aptly titled This Is Me... Now.

One standout sequence depicts Lopez overcoming an abusive relationship. This trauma is represented in literal, harrowing detail, but also artistically, through percussive modern dance moves that recall the push-pull of a toxic relationship dynamic. Here and throughout This Is Me...Now Lopez's dancing is career-best, her staggering athleticism punctuated by evocative choreography and imaginative staging. Lopez is showing all her hard work, and begging us to take it seriously, even as her character lays charmingly about on a J.Lo-monogrammed custom sofa, nursing a broken heart with a Barbra Streisand movie.

Seeking validation, by Lopez's account, has been a long-running theme in her life and public works. In her 2014 memoir True Love, Lopez details how she used her relationships to mask low self-esteem. Lopez's need to be taken seriously is also expressed within the first minute of her 2022 Netflix documentary, Halftime, a film in which we see her headline the Super Bowl halftime show, win deserved praise for her role in Hustlers, and perform at President Biden's inauguration. Lopez's lengthy and trailblazing career as a Latina in Hollywood is a wonder in and of itself. And though the legitimacy of her singing career has taken a few hits over the years, she has wrung nearly a quarter-century of superstardom out of what is arguably her third best talent, even after dancing and then acting had already made her a household name.

Lopez herself is a marvel of allure and moxie. Her lovesickness, steady ambition, and irrepressible theater kid energy don't repel the public, they delight us. When 'This Is Me...Now' leans into that sensibility, it soars.

But it's her naked desire for adulation, as opposed to unbridled artistic expression, that undercuts Lopez's film, and echoes our current celebrity oversaturation. Lopez herself is a marvel of allure and moxie. Her lovesickness, steady ambition, and irrepressible theater kid energy don't repel the public, they delight us. When This Is Me...Now leans into that sensibility, it soars. And when Lopez talks, I'm listening. But when pressed, Lopez, similar to many of her A-list peers these days, seems unable to tell us much beyond platitudes about self-love and upcoming tour dates.

Lopez recently told NPR's Morning Edition host Leila Fadel that This Is Me...Now is her most personal project yet, a tall order for someone who's been a tabloid fixture for over 25 years. But despite Lopez and her personal life being the only subject the film covers, This Is Me...Now doesn't actually shed any more light on her emotional journey than True Love or Halftime did. Unlike Beyoncé's acclaimed 2016 visual album Lemonade, This Is Me...Now drops no apparent bombshells or clear enough Easter eggs to spark flames of social media speculation. The film instead hits all the expected beats — hot, successful woman looks for self-assurance through romance, breakups ensue — while speeding past its more revealing moments without reflection.

In This Is Me...Now, J.Lo exists purely to love and be loved in the most general sense; first by a partner, then by herself, and finally, most importantly, by us.

Perhaps we'll get some deeper insight from Lopez's upcoming documentary, The Greatest Love Story Never Told, a behind-the-scenes look at the making of this visual album. The trailer teases fat tears, juicy confessionals, and tense rehearsal footage, but it's unclear what Lopez will reveal until the film hits Prime Video on February 27. Once again I'll be watching, amusedly and shamefully. When it comes to the confessional temple of J.Lo, I'm not disciplined enough to look away.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Jennifer Lopez in <em>This Is Me...Now: A Love Story.</em>
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Jennifer Lopez in This Is Me...Now: A Love Story.

Brittany Luse
Brittany Luse is an award-winning journalist, on-air host, and cultural critic. She is the host of It's Been a Minute and For Colored Nerds. Previously Luse hosted The Nod and Sampler podcasts, and co-hosted and executive produced The Nod with Brittany and Eric, a daily streaming show. She's written for Vulture and Harper's Bazaar, among others, and edited for the podcasts Planet Money and Not Past It. Luse and her work have been profiled by publications like The New York Times, The New Yorker, Vulture, and Teen Vogue.
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