REVIEW: Jennifer Lopez’s quest for self-love is both garbage and genius

Headshot of Wenlei Ma
Wenlei Ma
The Nightly
3 Min Read
JLo in This Is Me... Now.
JLo in This Is Me... Now. Credit: Amazon Prime Video

You have to give Jennifer Lopez big snaps for This Is Me… Now: A Love Story, her movie-not-movie, video-clip-not-video-clip conceptual content play.

The hour-long video is both blindingly awful and maybe genius. And it really could go either way. Perhaps that’s the brilliance in it, it’s so bewildering that it could be marketing garbage or it could be avant garde art. It’s certainly something only JLo could attempt.

What about Beyonce, you ask. Sure, but what Beyonce would do would be totally different, like Lemonade, which was much easier to position within Beyonce’s oeuvre, plus its engagement with her culture, heritage and American history.

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This Is Me… Now: A Love Story is something new and it’s weaponising the specific place JLo occupies with the public who has been as obsessed with her topsy-turvy personal life as they have been with her music or screen career.

Taken at a very surface level, This Is Me… Now is a narrative film in which JLo plays a version of herself grappling with what her onscreen friends and therapist calls her “love addiction”. A younger version of herself declares that when she grows up, she wants to be in love.

JLo's This Is Me... Now
JLo's This Is Me... Now is streaming from February 16. Credit: Amazon Prime Video

The story is a journey of self-discovery in which she has to learn that all the empty relationships she embarks on without hesitation aren’t fulfilling because the love she really needs is from herself. It’s pop psychology 101.

She’s aided on this quest by an above-the-clouds council of celestial beings representing signs of the zodiac, including Jane Fonda as Sagittarius, Trevor Noah as Libra, Post Malone as Leo, Sofia Vergara as Cancer and Neil DeGrasse Tyson as Taurus. They’ve seen her pain and they want to help. It doesn’t really make sense but it doesn’t need to.

The real moments that interlink the story are the songs with its elaborately choreographed set-ups and dances. The highlights are a solo number inspired by Singing’ in the Rain and one set at her wedding to three interchangeable grooms (Derek Hough, Tony Bellissimo and Trevor Jackson).

JLo's This Is Me... Now
JLo's This Is Me... Now: A Love Story will be followed by an album launch and a documentary. Credit: Amazon Prime Video

The message is not subtle. JLo has had several failed high-profile relationships and marriages. Ben Affleck (who cameos as a TV presenter) is her fourth marriage and that was their second engagement.

But this isn’t a movie about her and Affleck. It’s very much about JLo. She’s playing with her own public image by creating this story that leverages her reputation as tabloid fodder and saying she gets it but the most important thing is how she feels about herself.

If we’re to believe This Is Me… Now: A Love Story, she’s telling everyone that she has finally arrived at a place where no matter what happens with Affleck or anyone else, she’s going to be fine. Whitney Houston did it in one song, but Houston also obviously never got there personally.

As a pure viewing experience, This Is Me… Now: A Love Story is barely watchable. The performances are arch (and we know JLo is a great actor – Hustlers, Out of Sight) and the copious CGI is beyond redemption. But there is no way to watch this without engaging with the whole JLo story, and she’s a master at mythologising her own story.

And don’t forget, this is the first shot in the This Is Me… Now package. The accompanying album drops on Friday and a behind-the-scenes documentary will land on February 27.

You really have to give it to JLo for her gumption.

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