The filmmaker, Amanda Micheli, also leaves in comments from the NFL’s halftime show director complaining about “identity politics,” and includes headlines about the superficiality of the NFL’s support for anti-racist efforts given that team owners support Trump. Lopez revels in including the Puerto Rican flag onstage with her and gets teary-eyed in rehearsals talking about the treatment of Latinx people in the US. At the same time, the documentary flattens the politics of the moment by completely glossing over the fact that the NFL turned to the two Latinas to obscure the fact that Black performers, including Rihanna, in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick that year, refused to perform.
But true to the Lopez ethos, politics aren’t the point of the documentary. Or at least not those kinds of politics. It’s really about the industry politics surrounding Lopez, including the reception of Hustlers. The documentary shows her getting her hopes up with the press reaction to the movie and even reads a flattering article on camera. “Frankly it’s thrilling to see a criminally underrated performer” — her voice catches in her throat — “get her due from prestige film outlets.”
The documentary includes footage of her dejected face as she enters the hotel room where her team awaits her after she loses the Golden Globe. Most people would just say they’re “happy to be nominated for the Globes,” but Lopez is openly vulnerable about her desire and disappointment about the Oscars snub. “The truth is I really started to think I was gonna get nominated,” she says to the camera. And after she’s overlooked, we even get a generous camera pan of a thoughtful New York Times piece that explained why her unsentimentally sexual character, Ramona, might not have resonated with the academy’s voters.
The final scenes of the documentary are somewhat jarring, like an infomercial for Lopez herself, as we see her at a philanthropic event where she’s trying to get corporate investment in small businesses for Black and brown women.
In the end, it’s not so much that Halftime is a watchable film because Lopez is especially sympathetic as a multimillionaire A-lister underdog. But it’s more compelling than most celebrity self-portraits because she’s open about saying she feels like one. ●