The Malta Independent 27 May 2024, Monday
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J. Lo's very wacky, very wild, very J. Lo journey to love in 'This Is Me … Now'

Associated Press Monday, 22 April 2024, 10:54 Last update: about 2 months ago

OK, so maybe we're not tracking her jet travel online like amateur spies, or worrying on a diplomatic level whether she'll make it to a football game.

But current Swift-mania aside, let's not forget that another force of nature, J.Lo, has been the ultimate celebrity for decades. Singer. Dancer. Rom-com actor, charismatic and charming. Social media queen, and yes, tabloid magnet, with the very public ups and downs of her love life. Jennifer Lopez, now 54, has been doing this pop goddess thing for a very long time, and very well.

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All of which is to say that when she sings now that she and her lover — Ben Affleck, obviously — don't need to give a $%& about how others feel, well, who are we to argue? Who are we, really, to argue with J.Lo about anything?

Which is perhaps the perfect vantage point from which to assess the curious 65-minute creation that is "This is Me… Now: A Love Story," the movie accompanying her album out Friday. Some will call it a mere music video — it's directed by Dave Meyers, who's done hundreds — but it's heftier than that. And if the plot feels truly chaotic, blending (deep breath here, please) mythology, astrology, autobiography, confessional, modern romantic comedy and Old Hollywood glamour (still with us?), it is so J.Lo — so very, very J.Lo — that it feels logical, too.

Whether that means the film is, well, good, is probably a matter of how you feel about Lopez. Certainly, she's brought everything to the table here: her talents, her fertile imagination and her wallet, too, self-financing when money fell through, to the tune of a reported $20 million. Talk about self-belief, which is the moral of the film, if expressed rather too quickly and conveniently. If you can't love yourself, Lopez and co-writer Mark Walton tell us, you can't really love anyone else.

Anyway, we told you there was a plot, so here goes. Lopez, though channeling her own life, doesn't have a name in the film — she's billed as "Artist." But before we meet her, we begin with Puerto Rican mythology: the story of Alida and Taroo, star-crossed lovers from enemy tribes. They can't be together, so the gods turn her into a red flower (Lopez appears in the animation as Alida), and Taroo into a hummingbird, destined to forever seek her. The Artist heard the tale as a child and decided what she wanted to be when she grew up: "in love."

Now we see the modern Artist on the back of a motorcycle, riding across a beach, with a hunky man, face shielded. Then, screech — the motorcycle crashes. "Not all love stories have a happy ending," she says.

The Artist's adventure with love takes us to a "Metropolis"-like sequence in a very dystopian-looking factory, its purpose not fully clear but in any case a great setting for one of many dance numbers. Lopez still has it, if you wondered. Turns out, though, the depleting oxygen and dancers in hazmat suits are all part of a dream. We learn this in the Artist's therapy session the next day with her shrink (rapper Fat Joe).

He asks how it's going with the new guy. Not so well, it turns out — the guy's a Libra (astrology is ever-present) and, more to the point, violent, as we learn in the song "Rebound" about a toxic relationship, with a powerful dance sequence that has her continually pulled back into an abuser's clutches.

Time for the Zodiac Council to weigh in. Yes, up in the stars, led by Jane Fonda, yes Jane Fonda, not as J.Lo's mother-in-law this time but as Sagittarius, yes the sign, who peers down at our girl and says: "I don't get it!" Yup, agrees Libra, played by Trevor Noah — Libras and Leos are supposed to go well together. And so it goes, with others chiming in: Keke Palmer as Scorpio, Post Malone as Leo, Sofia Vergara as Cancer, Kim Petras as Virgo and even astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson as Taurus.

This wacky group is a celestial counterpart to a band of well-meaning friends down on Earth, those typical rom-com buddies who stage an intervention into her love life. Is the Artist is a sex addict? A love addict? Another addiction — to weddings, wink wink! — is explored in a big number where Lopez marries three different grooms.

It won't shock you that the Artist ultimately learns to love herself, with a return to her roots (this is, after all, Jenny From the Block). If she didn't, we wouldn't have an audacious — but fun — recreation of Gene Kelly in "Singin' in the Rain." We also wouldn't have reason to hear the triumphant songs that comprise the new album, coming more than 20 years after "This is Me … Then," written during her first go-round with Affleck.

Famously, they broke up. Famously, they reunited. (Now-husband Affleck appears here, in a sly cameo we won't spoil.) We watched it all. And we'll keep watching this most durable of superstars. There will be more to come. But this is her, now.

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