In Netflix’s new documentary Halftime, Jennifer Lopez takes some of her power back. Despite being one of the biggest pop stars and A-list actresses in the world, the Bronx-born entertainer has constantly been scrutinized in the press for her many public romances and lack of accolades for her work. In the latter part of 2019, Lopez hoped to change that with her work on Lorene Scafaria’s Hustlers, a film with which she was an Oscar-hopeful, and with her Super Bowl Halftime show that she shared with Sharika.
We first meet J-Lo as she is getting ready to start her Hustlers press tour in 2019, as her Oscar buzz was just starting. She clearly knew about performing at the Superbowl at or close to that point but had to keep quiet. We see her excitement at the prospect of performing at the country’s most-watched sporting event until it is announced that she must share the 14-minute time slot with Shakira.
The first blow of the documentary for Lopez, you can see the discomfort etched on her face in press photos before she makes the valid point that the NFL would ask this of a white male artist. What has since been taken out of context that Lopez didn’t want to perform with Shakira, was really the star’s words being twisted out of the valid point she was making. Are two of the world’s most popular Latina artists worth one white male act? Most of the Super Bowl parts we see are of Lopez negotiating and figuring out how each singer would utilize their 6 minutes of performance time.
Director Amanda Micheli smartly uses news and interview clips from Lopez and her work to fill in narrative gaps, using the press like the press has used the entertainer. It’s also an easy way to follow her Oscar journey as many award experts believed she would be nominated in the Best Supporting Actress category. As she didn’t, we see her pour herself into her Halftime performance, which is now considered to be one of the best halftime shows in recent years for its energy and political statement against then-President Trump’s immigration policy.
The documentary has been criticized for being a too manicured and inauthentic look into Lopez’s professional career. It barely touches upon her personal life at the time of filming, (she was still with Alex Rodriguez at the time, before her reconnection to Ben Affleck). While definitely shaped to fit the star’s brand, it’s hard not for any of these music documentaries to not come across as biased. Mary J.Blige’s My Life, Taylor Swift’s Miss Americana, and Beyonce’s Homecoming, all show their subjects in favorable lights. While Lopez’s stamp is all over Halftime, its bigger point about how hardworking and resilient one must be to work in show business shines through.