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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Movie? Music video? Documentary? Explaining Jennifer Lopez’s new project.



Jennifer Lopez in her office in Los Angeles on Dec. 21, 2021. (Chantal Anderson/The New York Times)

By Jennifer Vineyard


At one point during “This is Me ... Now: A Love Story,” a character observes that watching Jennifer Lopez’s love life is like bingeing “Vanderpump Rules” — eventually you stop judging the people you’re seeing and start judging yourself. But in the case of this self-financed multimedia project, you might also question what exactly it is that you have watched. Is it a movie, a collection of music videos, a simple vanity project? Is it a therapy session, or a new genre entirely — the therapy musical? Lopez, who co-wrote and produced this 65-minute spectacle, which is now available on Amazon Prime Video, tries to keep you guessing. You might have a few questions. We have some answers.


How much of Ben Affleck is in there?


Affleck flits in and out of this like a little-seen hummingbird.


He bookends the story as a lost love, a character called the Biker, but he’s a barely glimpsed mystery. Could that be his jaw line? Is that his chest? It’s definitely his voice we hear telling a sleeping Lopez, “You know how much I love you?” Going incognito to play cable-news pundit Rex Stone, Affleck dons a bad blonde wig, a prosthetic nose and a Trumpian spray tan. He also adopts a folksy accent that recalls Gary Busey, and a delivery that’s part Tucker Carlson and part Keith Olbermann (a man Affleck once memorably mocked on “Saturday Night Live”). But instead of ranting about politics, ol’ Rexy is concerned with the state of love and connection in the world — a topic of great interest to Lopez’s character, who is simply called the Artist. He’s the anchor of her love, but she’s barely tuning in.


It might have served the project better to have less of Affleck on the screen and more of him on the page. After all, this is the guy who co-wrote “Good Will Hunting” — one of the best of all therapy movies. Did the real-life Affleck try to encourage his wife to open up, the way Robin Williams’ therapist, Sean, wanted his patient to do? Did he urge her to think a little more deeply about love and vulnerability? It’s hard to guess from his mid-credits monologue.


Can we play Name That Ex?


Yes, we can.


Marriage might be a sacred union that should only be entered into with the utmost care, as Jane Fonda’s character told Lopez’s in “Monster-in-Law,” but that didn’t stop either Fonda in that film or Lopez in real life from giving it a try four times.


In the past, Lopez has used her position as a movie producer to comment on her own marital history. In 2002’s “Marry Me,” for instance, she played an artist who had been married three times. In this new project, she has a whirlwind rom-com sequence, set to the song “Can’t Get Enough,” in which she cycles through three weddings with three interchangeable husbands (played by Tony Bellissimo, Derek Hough and Trevor Jackson). Could this game of musical grooms be a commentary on her past marriages to Ojani Noa (1997-1998), Cris Judd (2001-2003) and Marc Anthony (2004-2014)?


Other former partners — from broken engagements and assorted alliances — are referenced in sequences when she’s tethered to an abusive Libra (“Rebound”) and entangled with a much younger guy carrying a gun. (A nod to a famous incident with Sean Combs — or to Casper Smart?) The Artist’s friends take bets on how long each union will last and eventually stage an intervention. They just can’t decide if their pal is addicted to sex, to love or to the wedding-industrial complex. In a therapy mic drop, her shrink (played by Fat Joe) sends her to a support group.


Lopez paid how much to film this?!


Lopez dodges that question, but Variety reports that this three-part multimedia project — the album, this accompanying visual experience and a forthcoming making-of documentary, “The Greatest Love Story Never Told” (due out Feb. 27) — cost a cool $20 million. When her original financing plan fell through, she decided to fund it herself — and she didn’t stint on high-profile guest stars. Her Zodialogical Council includes Jane Fonda (a friend since “Monster-in-Law”), Keke Palmer (also a friend, since “Hustlers”), Trevor Noah, Post Malone, Jenifer Lewis, Kim Petras and Neil deGrasse Tyson, among others.


What do you mean, Zodialogical Council? Like astrology?


Kind of.


Anthropomorphized zodiac signs form a sort of Greek chorus to watch over the Artist, and to add comic relief. (Sofia Vergara says in an end-credit scene that this was “one of the weirdest things I’ve ever done in my life.”) The zodiac signs don’t really do anything, such as intervene in the action; they just add vibe. One of them is life coach Jay Shetty, who actually presided over the Bennifer 2.0 nuptials.


One of Lopez’s character’s problems — and maybe J. Lo’s, too — is that she relies on zodiac signs to determine interpersonal compatibility. (In real life, there have been claims that she cut Virgos from dance auditions.)


So is this Jennifer Lopez’s “Lemonade?”


No, it’s a little different artistically.


Lopez has several genres she wants to play with, and while there are some lovely moments of visual poetry, there aren’t enough for this to qualify as a visual concept album. Or enough insights, either. If you’re hoping that Lopez (or her character) will dig deep in her therapy sessions, you’ll probably be disappointed. The Artist presents herself as someone who is ready to reveal all, but she actually reveals very little, even to herself. Her grand idea of love is about getting it, not giving it. And in the end, you might wonder, was this really a love story at all?

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