“This is Me… Now” Won’t Help JLo’s Reputation as an Artist

Jennifer Lopez in "This is Me... Now"

I suffered through Jennifer Lopez’s $20 million self-financed extravaganza This is Me… Now, so you don’t have to. By the second pass, I threw up my hands and gave up trying to figure out what the film even is. Is it a parody, an attempt at a meaningful work of art, or a feverish dream? Maybe it’s just one long MTV-style music video to sell a new album of sentimental songs, a documentary, and merch?

I couldn’t help but wonder: is JLo, who co-wrote and produced the film, serious with this sci-fi meets telenovela? Because whatever this movie musical tries to be, it’s hard to watch. I wish I could say it’s so bad, it’s good – like husband Ben Affleck’s Dunkin Doughnuts ads. But I can’t.

Affleck’s cameo in the film – as a seedy news anchor – hits the nail on the head when he says: “You just can’t make this shit up, I tell you.” Jane Fonda, playing a Zodiac sign (don’t ask), puts it even better. “I hate that I can’t stop watching. It’s like a Vanderpump Rules marathon, and it’s four in the morning, and I stop judging them, and I start judging myself.”

Streaming on Prime Video, This is Me… Now is billed as a “narrative-driven cinematic odyssey” and a “mythological” introspective retrospective of the Beniffer story. They fall in love, crash and burn, embark on rebound relationships, have kids, and get divorced. After 20 years, Jennifer Lopez, the hopeless romantic, returns to Ben after learning to love herself.

God help us.

“I know what they say about me, about hopeless romantics, that we’re weak,” The Artist, JLo’s character in the film, says to Fat Joe, her therapist, sporting what looks like a painted-on beard. “But I’m not weak. It takes strength to keep believing in something after you keep falling flat on your face.”

It’s hard to equate a shrewd businesswoman and Hollywood survivor like Jennifer Lopez with a hopeless romantic. But then again, many telenovelas are based on just this premise. Remember, Lopez has graced made it to a real-life altar four times and played the role of a bride in eight rom-coms. The girl loves love and weddings.

JLo in "This is Me... Now"

Ultimately, This is Me… Now is an expensive vanity project. It’s meant to showcase her latest album. And as if that were not enough, the documentary The Greatest Love Story Never Told (called “indecently compelling” by London’s The Times) about making the film and album has just been released, also on Amazon.

The trilogy – the album, film, and documentary – has merchandise attached to it: T-shirts, hoodies, a booklet, a deluxe CD, a vinyl edition of the album, and more. It will make Lopez richer and probably stir up resentment about all the space she takes up, but it will not do much for her standing as an artist.

Directed by Dave Meyers, the film’s heart is a Puerto Rican folk tale that I, a Puerto Rican, have never heard of. It’s about two star-crossed lovers from warring Taino tribes – like a Boricua Romeo and Juliet. Alida, the daughter of a powerful Indian chief, falls in love with Taroo, a young Indian warrior. Their forbidden love turns her into a rose and him into a hummingbird, always in search of each other.

To be fair, This is Me… Now does deliver a couple of core truths. One, Jennifer Lopez can dance. And two, as Affleck says in The Greatest Love Story Never Told, “The movie wasn’t about me. It was about the ability to love yourself. And that love story is a lot fucking harder to find than Prince Charming.”

So, should you watch or pass? Well, that’s up to you. On the strength of Jlo’s 17.5 million TikTok followers, a quarter billion on Instagram, and the Boricua factor, This is Me… Now has reached #9 in Puerto Rico and scored high on Rotten Tomatoes. The album didn’t do as well. It debuted with 14k streams on Spotify. Not great.

But JLo did achieve something with this movie. She managed to get the name of Yukiyu, a venerated Taino deity and masculine spirit of fertility, into Anglo copy. Now – that’s a real accomplishment and if that’s the legacy of This is Me… Now, I’ll take it.

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