Jennifer Lopez’s new film about herself is a strange mess. But there’s method in the madness

J-Lo’s raunchy full-length movie – called This Is Me … Now: A Love Story – features lots of rugged sex and even more dazzling dance routines. What can it all mean?

You could say it’s the role she was born to play. This month sees the release of This Is Me … Now: A Love Story, a full-length movie in which Jennifer Affleck (nee Lopez) transforms herself into the legendary American singer, actress and pop culture icon known as … J-Lo. Yes, she’s playing herself, or at least a rather strange version of herself.

The trailer for the film, which is being released exclusively via Amazon Prime, could not have been better designed for social media intrigue. It features a tear-strewn therapy session, death-defying motorcycle crashes and a staged intervention from J-Lo’s friends in which they put it to her that she’s a sex addict. To be fair, there does seem to be a lot of sex in the movie, or at least a lot of rugged dry-humping, and she marries at least three men in one scene. But the raunch takes second stage to the dazzling musical numbers – a line of pink tuxedo-clad men are seen twirling umbrellas in garden mazes at one point. Astonishingly, this high-budget affair is all just a promotional tool to let us know about J-Lo’s ninth album (also called This Is Me … Now).

If this seems slightly bananas, then it’s perhaps no more so than recent J-Lo developments, all of which you would be hard-pushed to be described as anything other than “curveballs”: first her 2021 reunion with (and subsequent marriage) to Affleck, who she’d previously dated from 2002 to 2004; more recently news that she would be producing a future Bob the Builder movie, one in which the eponymous tradesman travels to Puerto Rico as Roberto to embark on what has been described as a “major construction job”.

But believe it or not, there is method in the madness here, at least when it comes to the new film which taps into the current trend of pop stars harnessing cinemas as key focal points in promotional campaigns. J-Lo’s new album is billed as a follow-up to her third album 2002’s This Is Me … Then, which was released in the wake of her getting together with Affleck the first time around. Hyping it via the popcorn route follows in the footsteps of Taylor Swift and Beyoncé, who both gave theatrical releases to their gargantuan Eras and Renaissance tours respectively. The difference here is that rather than repurpose concert footage to make more cash from punters who couldn’t get tickets to the live show, J-Lo has pushed the boat out by possibly inventing the “therapy-musical biopic” genre, billing it as “the most personal thing I’ve ever done”. It even stars Affleck, although how he feels about the trailer’s key line “not all love stories have a happy ending” is anyone’s guess.

In recent years, cinemas have become focal points for big events rather than, say, somewhere you can slump quietly and watch a film, places where punters dress up, take friends and dance in the aisles. The Barbie movie encouraged a wave of hot pink outfits, and TikTok is awash with footage from the Eras tour, in which viewers storm the front to sing along arm-in-arm. Last year, Talking Heads re-released their iconic concert film Stop Making Sense in cinemas prompting similarly raucous responses (and the announcement of a covers album, Everyone’s Getting Involved: A Tribute to Talking Heads’ Stop Making Sense, overseen by film and entertainment giant A24). Pet Shop Boys’ concert film Dreamworld: Greatest Hits also hit cinemas this week, the final showing of which will be this Sunday (4 February).

J-Lo isn’t the only musician to envisage going beyond a concert film to promote their album. Last month British-American rapper 21 Savage announced American Dream: The 21 Savage Story, a similarly ambitious looking, no-expense-spared biopic starring Donald Glover. But unlike J-Lo, 21 Savage eventually admitted that the trailer was a parody, a wind up serving only to promote his record. J-Lo doesn’t seem to be concerned with such half measures.

And why should she? Unlike Swift, Beyoncé et al, she has long presided over both the film and music industries, with this year alone also seeing her star in the science-fiction thriller Atlas and the biographical sports drama Unstoppable. You could just as easily argue that the album is promoting the film – and if anyone is well placed to get away with something this bonkers then it’s probably J-Lo.

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