Netflix released Jennifer Lopez’s Halftime documentary this week, and if you were expecting the film to reveal juicy behind-the-scenes gossip about the artist’s high-profile romances and private life, think again. More a portrait of the singer, actor, producer and dancer’s illustrious career and unwavering work ethic, Halftime gives us the J.Lo we know well — a powerhouse performer who never stops chasing her goals.

Still, there are insights into the Jennifer Lopez we don’t see as often. This is absolutely a documentary more interested in highlighting Lopez’s successes and the adversity she’s had to endure along the way, but every so often the star drops her on-camera persona, and shows her vulnerable side. Lopez actually acknowledges just how in-control she is at all times, saying she’s “proud” of the fact that no one will ever know what she’s really thinking or feeling when she’s on a red carpet, or in front of a crowd. This is a woman who will never be letting broken hearts, missed dreams or personal issues get in the way of where she’s determined to head, and you have to admire her for her steeliness, especially when the documentary takes a look at the sheer and relentless tabloid scrutiny she’s experienced over the past thirty-odd years.

So, what have we learned about Jennifer Lopez?

1. Both J.Lo and Shakira Were Upset About That Double-Feature Super Bowl Show

Both stars were extremely frustrated over the Super Bowl performance. Image: Netflix.

Halftime focuses predominantly on the period between Jennifer Lopez’s 50th birthday in 2019, and the 2020 Super Bowl show. After being criticized for a lack of diversity, the Super Bowl management team cast Lopez and Shakira as co-headline acts, a decision J.Lo’s manager Benny Medina calls “an insult” in light of the fact that historically, there has been just one (white) headliner. 

Add to this the fact that instead of expanding the halftime show to twenty minutes, Shakira and Jennifer Lopez were expected to perform in half the time of a usual act. “This is the worst idea in the world to have two people do the Super Bowl,” Lopez says at one point, and you can sense her frustration throughout the prep as she attempts to squeeze so many hits into one performance.

2. Her Relationship With Her Family Is Complicated

Something you may not have known about Lopez is that she had a difficult upbringing. Sure, we all know she grew up in the Bronx and came from nothing, but her family relationships are also complex. For example, Lopez tells us she wasn’t the daughter that was expected to succeed. “It was always ingrained in my head that I wasn’t the singer. My sister’s the singer and my other sister is the smart one,” she says, adding that her mother was hard on her and her sisters.

One scene that’s quite confronting is when Lopez is in a group chat conversation with her sisters and parents during a sports game. She tells them some big career news, which they pretty much ignore in favor of discussing the game. In part, it’s standard family-related amusement. But it hits a little deeper given we know Lopez’s family relationships, too.

3. J.Lo Found Her Political Voice During The Trump Era

J.Lo had her young Superbowl performers start in light cages as a statement around the refugee issues in America. Image: Netflix.

One interesting insight into Jennifer Lopez’s journey was her finding herself during the Trump presidency. Disgusted at the way refugees were being kept in cages, with children being separated from their parents. She tells us she wasn’t “into politics” really, but “you don’t rip a child from their parents. There’s just certain things as a human being you don’t do… it made me realize I had a responsibility to not be quiet, to not leave the politics to anyone else.”

She uses her Super Bowl performance to make a statement about the mistreatment, using light-based cages to show that you can’t hold the Latina community down. It makes her performance at Biden’s inauguration, the final scene of the film, incredibly moving. 

4. She Notices What People Say About Her

Hustlers was a huge moment for Jennifer Lopez, and her campaign for an Oscar is a central focus of Halftime. You really see the team behind her as she moves from talk show to talk show, laying the foundations for what will hopefully be her first-ever Oscar nomination.

When she is nominated for a Golden Globe for the performance, we see her sifting through reviews and commentary by the media. At one point, a writer calls her “criminally underrated” as an actress, which brings Lopez to real tears. This is a woman who may be strong and self-assured, but she still notices the way the public speak about her. It makes you really consider what you have written on the internet about celebrities — they’re real people, and while they may have teams who sort through their media coverage, they also read it, too.

5. The Oscars Snub Was Devastating

Despite mass support, Hustlers received no Oscars nominations. Image: Netflix.

We all knew what a travesty it was that Lopez didn’t get an Oscar nomination for Hustlers. But seeing the lead-up to award season, the effort her team put into her publicity around it, and the raw hope she had, makes the snub hit like a gut-punch. 

Lopez actually doesn’t show a lot of her emotion regarding the snub, which I’m sure is related to protecting herself as she discusses in the film. But she does say regarding her team “I feel like I let everyone down. They wanted it so bad for me, for them. It’s a validation of all the work they do too.” 

Still, the film ends on a high note. Alongside her performance at Biden’s inauguration, Lopez tells us about her philanthropy work — a partnership called Limitless Labs, that helps Latina women build small businesses. You really sense that Lopez is entering a new phase of her career, in which political and social purpose sits alongside her inspirational hustle in the entertainment industry. She seems, to put it simply, really damn happy.

Halftime is currently streaming on Netflix.

thoughts?