Halftime (2022) ☆☆1/2(2.5/4): The halftime of her life

Netflix documentary film “Halftime” examines what may be regarded as the middle point of Jennifer Lopez’s life and career, and it interests me to some degree. Although I am not that familiar with her music career, I saw several movies of hers including “Selena” (1997) and “Hustlers” (2019), and that is more than enough for me to see why she has been an enduring entertainer for more than 20 years. Besides having that distinctive star quality of hers, she is also a strong Latino American woman who is also very talented in many aspects, and that is the main reason why she has prevailed without losing any of her artistic integrity.

However, I cannot help but wonder whether I really get to know more of Lopez as a person or an artist after watching the documentary. Frequently alternating between two different narratives during 2019-2020, it does not delve much into its human subject, and, to my little disappointment, Lopez herself does not go beyond what she is expected to tell throughout the documentary. As a matter of fact, if you are one of her longtime fans, I doubt whether you will learn more than what you already know about her life and career.

One of these two different narratives in the documentary focuses on how Lopez and her crew members prepared for the halftime show for the 2020 NFL Super Bowl. Due to lots of race issues surrounding NFL ignited by a certain public act of defiance by Colin Kaepernick, NFL needed a popular pop artist to represent racial harmony, and, after several months of rumors, Lopez was officially chosen for the halftime show along with Shakira. Although she was not exactly pleased about not doing the show alone by herself, Lopez saw an opportunity to spread positive social messages in addition to expressing more of herself, and we soon see how she and her crew members started to work on what and how she would perform during several minutes allotted to her.

Meanwhile, Lopez also had the other important business to handle. In addition to playing one of its main characters, she also participated in the production of “Hustlers”, and she suddenly became a considerable Oscar contender after it received lots of positive reviews at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival. Considering that she did not have much critical success since “Selena” and “Out of Sight” (1998), the movie looked to her like a long-awaited chance for getting more respect from audiences as well as critics, and, as shown from the documentary, she really worked hard during the following Oscar season for getting the nomination.

Of course, as many of you know well, her hope was soon dashed step by step. Although she received the awards from a number of major movie critic associations including the LA Film Critics Associations, she did not win the Golden Globe award or the Screen Actors Guild award (Both of them went to Laura Dern of “Marriage Story” (2019), who deservedly won the Oscar as predicted by many people from the beginning), and she and others around her were quite disappointed when the nominees of the 2020 Academy Awards were eventually announced.

Probably because of its anti-climactic ending, this narrative looks rather trivial compared to the other narrative of the documentary, which could be more fascinating and interesting if the documentary only focused on this part. For example, a certain sociopolitical part of Lopez’s halftime show performance was initially approved without much problem, but then those rich and influential figures at the top of NFL, many of whom were incidentally associated with President Donald J. Trump, objected to this in the last minute, and the documentary unfortunately did not pay enough attention to how Lopez stuck to her artistic vision despite some compromise.

In case of the part showing the preparation process for Lopez’s halftime show performance, we surely get a bunch of raw and intimate moments as the cameras frequently hang around Lopez and her crew members, but that remains to be no more than mandatory services for her fans out there. Sure, she is quite passionate and dedicated as demanded, and she often talks about how much the show means to not only herself but also millions of fans and Latino people in US, but we can clearly sense that, like many other contemporary pop stars of hers, she is still controlling her public image instead of revealing more of herself and her artistry in front of the camera.

When the showtime eventually came, Lopez surely did not disappoint her audiences at all, but the documentary moved onto its epilogue part a bit too quickly. During this part, we see Lopez getting another notable highlight in her life and career, but the documentary does not provide much narrative ground for that, so it leaves a rather hollow impression on us in the end.

Directed by Amanda Micheli, “Halftime” is a fairly competent documentary, but it does not distinguish enough among many other recent similar musician documentaries ranging from “Gaga: Five Feet Two” (2017) to “Billie Eilish: The World’s a Little Blurry” (2021). In my humble opinion, Lopez and her undeniable artistic talent deserve something more insightful than this, and I certainly recommend you “Hustlers” or “Selena” instead if you have watched neither of them.

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