Thursday, April 29, 2010

what ever happened to jennifer lopez?

i have a problem saying no to a free movie, regardless of what it is, thus last week the criterion conquistador and i sat through the new jennifer lopez film the back-up plan. it was as awful as one might imagine: trite, surprisingly boring, and unsurprisingly homophobic in several scenes.  even though the audience was stacked with the j-lo loving public, laughs (aside from the criterion conquistador's dishonest chuckle) were few and far between.

i left theater with two thoughts in mind:

1.  every film offered doesn't need to be seen.


2.  what ever happened to jennifer lopez?  seriously, at one point in time, at the crux of her soon-to-be immense stardom jennifer lopez seemed imbued with the sort of star quality of a talent like frank sinatra or marilyn monroe.  an all-around performer with the ability to command a stage or a big-budget film or lower her wages and slide in to a devastating performance under some artsy director.  sure, the one-time fly girl who's become a perennial subject of the tabloids, when viewed in hindsight, doesn't seem to have had that sort of career bubbling within her, but please, can we just take a look at Out of Sight.

for many reasons, steven soderbergh's unheralded crime classic is five-star film.  the witty adaptation of elmore leonard's beloved book is not only headlined by two drop-dead amazing performances (george clooney as the never-use-a-gun robbery expert jack foley, and of course j-lo herself as the hard-nosed romance-begone u.s. marshall karen sisco) but it's supported by an unnervingly talented cast of supporters.  steve zahn's stoner crook, ving rhames quotable sidekick, dennis farina's hard-loving cop - it just doesn't stop.  pile that one with the sort of new wave edit, elliot davis' almost hazy cinematography and a blisteringly hot bit of chemistry between clooney and lopez, and this is really one of the great films of the last twenty years.

jennifer lopez's karen sisco is a crucial element of this film.  she's the perfect balance of steamy sexuality (and please the motel scene with clooney near the end is a raging pile of hot) and toughened cop.  you can imagine her kicking the shit out of some no-good perp while still completely buying her romantic woes.  karen sisco is so desperate for romance in her perpetually unbalanced life, that even her exact opposite, a dashingly handsome felon keen on robbery, sucks her in, and lopez plays it in a way where her softer side seems accessible.  if soderbergh, in choosing an actress for the role, had slid in either direction - too soft, or too hard - the interplay between the two main characters would never have succeeded.  but soderbergh, in a bit of out-of-the-box casting that has to be lauded, chose a spicy latina from the bronx who was on the verge of stardom, both as an actress and a singer.

and lopez nails it.  she's such a deft combination of hard and soft in this film, that i, as a late-pubescent male, wanted her both to arrest me and touch me.  to slap me around a bit and then romp in the hay with me.  against a formidable opponent/lover like george clooney a lot of good looking lead actors become just that, looks.  but here lopez uses her curves as a weapon in the game they play.  they're both strikingly attractive in this film (again, thank elliot's gauzy photography for that) but the attractive elements of both of them are the emotions and the way their played just right.

credit soderbergh and the script and a complete fluke for j-lo's only good performance, or perhaps just give the talented lady a hand.  i can't say what happened to j-lo, perhaps the draw of bigger money in bigger pictures sabotaged the burgeoning acting career she had, or perhaps the small, more intense roles weren't ever really in the picture.  or perhaps, j-lo's much lauded ego just got the best of her but out of sight, sweet sweet film that it is, gave us a glimpse of a new force in hollywood.  a star in the mold of the ultra-attractive, quick-witted ladies of the 1940s and 50s, and sadly, for whatever reason, that glimpse was all we got.


criterion counsel: ah jaysus, barely gave it peep.  but i have written two reviews for the film festival that you can find here and here.

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