NEW YORK — In February 2020, Jennifer Lopez and Shakira astonished with a marathon Super Bowl halftime show that flawlessly wed pageantry with politics.
But in “Halftime,” a new documentary that opened the annual Tribeca Festival Wednesday, Lopez reveals that it was hardly smooth sailing in the months and weeks leading up to the performance.
In candid interviews and fly-on-the-wall footage captured by director Amanda Micheli in summer 2019, Lopez tries to keep mum about speculation she’s the “frontrunner” to headline the halftime show. So when the announcement comes that September she’ll be joined by Shakira, Lopez’s team calls it a slight against both women, suggesting that the NFL doesn’t believe Latinas can command the world’s biggest stage solo.
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Lopez, to be clear, doesn’t blame Shakira, and both artists are shown collaborating and supporting each other throughout the documentary. But Lopez doesn’t hold back about the NFL.
“If it was gonna be a double headliner, they should’ve given us 20 (expletive) minutes,” she tells Shakira by phone, after agreeing to evenly split up their 12-minute performance time.
Later in the film, Lopez attempts to hash out her Super Bowl set list with her music director, expressing frustration with how few songs she can realistically do in the six minutes allotted to her.
“It’s the worst idea in the world to have two people do the Super Bowl,” Lopez says.
Early in the documentary, the singer gets emotional discussing former President Donald Trump and his anti-immigration policies, explaining how his dangerous rhetoric inspired her to make a statement with her Super Bowl performance.
During the halftime show, more than a dozen children appeared on the football field in light-up cages, which they then walked out of singing Lopez’s “Let’s Get Loud” and Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA.” They were joined moments later by Lopez, draped in a feathery Puerto Rican flag.
NFL higher-ups worried the cages would be “too political,” and also encouraged her to lose the giant Venus symbol for “woman” on stage, saying it was heavy-handed. But Lopez held her ground on both issues, despite pressure from the NFL to make changes just hours before showtime.
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In addition to the Super Bowl, “Halftime” offers a disheartening look at Lopez’s unsuccessful bid for her first Oscar nomination, after receiving career-best reviews for her megawatt performance in 2019 stripper drama “Hustlers.”
The film ends with her performance at President Joe Biden’s inauguration in January 2021, meaning it doesn’t touch on her breakup from Alex Rodriguez nor her reunion with Ben Affleck last year. (Although, Affleck appears in a brief talking-head interview about how Lopez weathers tabloid mockery and negative press.)
“We didn’t have any ground rules about what was off limits,” Micheli told USA TODAY on the red carpet before Wednesday’s premiere. “She was very open to having these extensive conversations with me and didn’t edit herself at all. For me personally, I wasn’t interested in doing an exposé on Jennifer’s relationships, but it was important that we at least touch on that. I think we found the right balance.”
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“Halftime” screened at the historic United Palace theater in Manhattan’s Washington Heights, not far from where Lopez grew up in the Bronx. It was a packed affair compared to last year’s scaled down Tribeca Festival, which took place primarily outdoors due to COVID-19 caution.
“It’s great,” Tribeca co-founder Robert De Niro said of the fest returning in earnest. “I think everybody just wants to get out (of the house).”
Tribeca Festival runs through June 19 with virtual and in-person events. “Halftime,” meanwhile, streams on Netflix June 14.
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