J-Lo’s ‘bonkers’ new musical film deserves respect

When the trailer and concept for This Is Me… Now: A Love Story first dropped, a lot of people online thought it looked and sounded completely “bonkers“. And it is, at points: Lopez is watched over by a squad of guardian angels – including Jane Fonda, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Kim Petras, and Trevor Noah – who use astrology to help her, while bickering, making snappy quips and referencing today’s pop culture, like Bravo reality show Vanderpump Rules.

And why shouldn’t Lopez have her own eccentric feature-length film? And with an all-star supporting cast, also including Keke Palmer and Sofia Vergara? In a career spanning four decades, she has sold millions of records and appeared in countless films that, combined, have generated more than $1billion at the box office. She performed at the 2020 presidential inauguration – and even starred in her own Las Vegas residency.

The green Versace dress Lopez wore to the 2000 Grammy Awards is the reason Google Images exists. (The word “iconic” is very overused these days, but that is surely deserving of it.) It might seem strange to position someone so accomplished as an underdog. But Lopez has been frequently overlooked throughout her career – whether it’s being “snubbed” by the Oscars for her role in Hustlers, or having to share her 2020 Super Bowl halftime show with Shakira, when both women deserved to headline on their own.

What it has to say

This is Me… Now is part of a wave of movies from today’s biggest pop divas. Last year, both Beyoncé and Taylor Swift released hit concert movies, where fans queued up in costume to watch their recent sold-out tours in cinemas. But what Lopez presents is different. Similarly to Beyonce’s 2016 visual album, Lemonade, it feels like a way for Lopez to take up more space – and be seen – on her own terms.

Throughout her career, Lopez’s own romantic life has frequently become an entertainment spectacle of its own, like her whirlwind reunion with Affleck, who she was originally engaged to in 2004, before breaking it off. The 2021 reunion of “Bennifer”, which culminated in a 2022 Las Vegas wedding, was one of the great pop culture moments of recent times. (In case you were wondering, yes: Affleck fleetingly appears in the film). Lopez’s complicated romantic life is the film’s primary inspiration. “When I was a little girl, whenever someone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up,” Lopez says right at the start, “my answer was always: ‘in love’.”

Narrative-wise, the overall message of the film seems confused. There’s a lot of talk of astrology, and about technology ruining relationships. And there are plenty of clichés about love. “What is love and why do we need it?” seems to be a central question. The film’s recurring metaphor casts Lopez as a red rose in search of a hummingbird (based on a Puerto Rican story where roses and hummingbirds symbolise young lovers who were tragically separated).

It begins with an animated storybook introduction, with Lopez’s voice narrating the tale, continuing with frequent references to flowers and birds throughout. The film’s obvious fairytale influences are interspersed with references to Lopez’s own life story, which represents another folklore favourite: the American Dream. “Flowers don’t grow in the Bronx,” says her first crush, to which she responds: “Sometimes they do.”

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