Credit: Prime Video
by Joshua Peinado Featured Film Streaming Scene

This Is Me… Now: A Love Story — Dave Meyers

February 15, 2024

Jennifer Lopez, in recent years, has made a comeback from her early career to new levels of critical and commercial success. Lopez dominated Netflix streaming with 2023’s The Mother, which became one of the top ten most popular films on the platform ever upon its release. Before that, she performed at both Joe Biden’s presidential inauguration and the Super Bowl half-time show within a three-week span in early 2021. And she even garnered awards buzz for her role in 2019’s Hustlers a few years earlier. In many ways, then, it feels as if almost no time has passed for the star since her 2002 album This is me… Then; she’s even reunited with her beau from that time, Ben Affleck, whose partnership has inspired her newest film (which she co-wrote and produced) —This is Me… Now: A Love Story, the documentary an intended accompaniment to her album of the same name releasing the same day.

This is Me… Now, itself, is less an earnest attempt from Lopez to break into filmmaking and moreso a series of music videos strung together by occasional narrative breaks. These often take the form of interludes from an omniscient “astrological” council, and a recurring therapy session Lopez has with “Therapist” (Fat Joe). The film is framed via Lopez’s narration to her therapist, which introduces the audience to “the artist,” for whom love seems to be an all but lost cause. On a separate, divine plane, the astrological council (which includes such familiar faces as Post Malone, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Jane Fonda, and Sadhguru, all representing different zodiac signs) watch Lopez’s love life play out outside of therapy. The artist struggles with feelings of insecurity as affair after affair lead her to the same place — heartbreak. Her friends in the film, always in a gaggle, even think to stage an intervention to plead with the artist to just stay single for a while. 50 minutes and six musical montages later, “the artist” has learned the most important lesson of all — that the person she really needs to love is herself. Of course, a brief appearance from Ben Affleck’s chest suggests that she just might find Mr. Right after the credits roll.

This is Me… Now is an experience at odds with itself, at times situating itself as a fairy tale, while at others a crass, “real” look at Lopez’s journey until now. Insofar as it’s a film, its narrative is as predictable and charmless as one might expect from a first-time film writer who thinks to tackle their own love life as an epic journey worthy of cosmic spectatorship. The astrological council conceit bears no actual effect on the story, and is instead merely treated as an excuse to spend time away from Lopez’s singing and indulge in celebrities saying silly things. Though these actors are technically playing characters, their lack of definition suggests that they’re really just playing some version of themselves. It’s a sad and awkward thing to watch a great actress like Jenifer Lewis (as a member of the Zodiac council) struggle in real time to understand the point of any line she’s delivering. Lopez’s songs might be the worst offender however — all lyrically childish, acoustically vacant, and emotionally stunted. Any personality that might have been found in Lopez’s delivery seems scrubbed clean. As is often the case with pop acts who seek to appeal to the broadest possible audience, metaphors become so vague they lose all meaning.

The specificity of Lopez’s story (which she supposedly wanted to tell) becomes muddled in lines from songs like Hearts and Flowers: “When you’re wishing on a star / It seems easy from where they are / They’ll be watching from afar / Just remember who you are.” (This is immediately followed by Lopez’s first break into “rap”: “Now she got even more than she had / Now she got hella haters / And they hella mad.”) One could look to any track for these nondescript gestures toward feelings which color the whole experience hollow. In a scene of reckoning, Lopez confesses to a group “I used to think that it was everybody else that was broken, but now I think… maybe it was just me.” She proceeds to sing what should be a tearjerker in the track Broken Like Me, which observes: “Broken like me / Tried to believe / That I could fix you / But you’re broken like me.” If it’s not apparent yet, Lopez doesn’t seem to have a lot of respect for her audience, or for herself. Rather than risk losing meaning to abstraction, the film and music act as an overly literal expository piece that functions as a literal therapy session for Lopez. (Don’t forget that damn framing device!)

In the promotional tour Lopez embarked on in anticipation of This is Me… Now, a performance on Saturday Night Live became infamous after the host of the evening, Ayo Edebiri, had past comments about Lopez come to light: “Today I was actually thinking about one of my favorite scams of all time because J.Lo is performing at the Super Bowl Halftime Show. Her whole career is one long scam. I think she thinks that she’s still good…” These remarks speak to the fundamental issue plaguing This is Me… Now (A Love Story); specifically, Lopez’s confidence seems to have clouded her better judgment. In a Variety article released days before This is Me… Now’s premiere, the struggle to get Lopez’s vision to screen is detailed in various stories of her friends and peers asking her not to make this. Lopez’s vision was so confusing and untouchable that she was unable to secure any outside funding, and was pushed into self-financing the project.

This isn’t to say that she had no friends in her corner while she made this — she clearly did, as the film sports a wealth of celebrities in various cameos. Some, like Fonda, had their doubts, but signed on in spite of them. Others, like Khloé Kardashian, refused Lopez’s offers to appear in the film. Lopez even noted herself the confusion that many of her actors had in an interview that accompanied press materials. The credits feature a string of bloopers, among them Sofía Vergara loudly exclaiming, “This could have been one of the weirdest things I’ve ever done in my life.” In the film, Lopez finds herself surrounded by friends who do their best to keep her grounded. From their endless quips about her love life to their eventual intervention to put a stop to her antics, it’s clear she has people in this fictional world who care enough about her to tell her when she’s gone too far. If only Lopez had such dedicated friends in her real life, someone might have told her to stop while she was ahead, rather than spend $20 million of her own money constructing a monument to her mediocrity.

DIRECTOR: Dave Meyers;  CAST: Jennifer Lopez;  DISTRIBUTOR: Amazon MGM Studios;  STREAMING: February 15;  RUNTIME: 1 hr. 5 min.