‘This Is Me…Now: A Love Story’ Review: Jennifer Lopez Embraces Hopeless Romanticism in a Chaotic Confessional Film

On her 2002 album This is Me…Then, Jennifer Lopez included a song addressing Ben Affleck. “Dear Ben” is a confession and a love letter to Affleck, whom the singer met and started dating during the shooting of the film Gigli.  The album was released two weeks after the pair’s engagement. The song ends with a now melancholic coda: “There’s no way I’d leave you / It’s just not a reality / Sometimes I feel like I’m living in a fantasy.” A year later, after Lopez and Affleck postponed their wedding, the pair broke up.

More than 20 years later, Lopez’s life looks different. She’s even more established in her career, she’s a mother of two teenagers and she remarried the love of her life. Three years ago, Lopez and Affleck rekindled their relationship, becoming proof of the adage “right person, wrong time.” To commemorate this milestone and the return to fantasy, the singer is releasing This is Me…Now, a bookending record chronicling her relationship to love and celebrating her reunion with Affleck.

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The three-part project includes an upcoming documentary (set to premiere Feb. 27 on Prime Video) and an un-categorizable narrative movie, This is Me… Now: A Love Story. The latter, which will premiere on Prime Video on Feb. 16, is a frenetic autobiographically-inspired reflection wrapped in a fairytale and colored by bizarre astrology musings from a starry cast. To watch This is Me… Now is to witness Lopez’s unapologetic vision and uniquely powerful self-confidence. It’s to see how a certain kind of celebrity and financial access allows you to, quite frankly, do whatever you want against the fair warnings of detractors. The film is not good, but it is singular — and absolutely chaotic.

In This is Me…Now, Lopez, a consummate hopeless romantic, shapes her own fairytale from Taino folktales and her personal experience. The film opens with a narrator (Lopez) recounting the story of Alida and Taroo, indigenous lovers from warring tribes whose chance meeting leads to a covert relationship. The story is worth retelling because it’s one of the few coherent parts of the project written by Lopez and co-writer Matt Walton. When Alida’s father finds out she’s having clandestine meetings with an enemy, the angry chief forces his daughter to marry another man. Stricken by grief, Alida prays to the gods, who turn her into a red flower. When Taroo begs the same gods for answers to Alida’s disappearance (he does not know their secret has been revealed), they turn him into a hummingbird. Legend has it that when a hummingbird perches on a red flower, it is Taroo searching for Alida.

Lopez, whose character is known simply as the Artist, fashions herself as Alida. We know who her Taroo will be based on given an early sequence in the film in which Lopez rides on the back of a motorcycle driven by a man with Affleck’s profile. Their journey through the mountains is cut short by a crash, which instigates a broken heart and the first song-and-dance number of the film. Inside the Artist’s heart is a factory managed by Lopez and run by an army of people in utility suits and overalls. They jump and flip and glide across surfaces in unison as they make their way to the mechanical heart, which is on the verge of exploding. The mostly forgettable music in A Love Story comes from Lopez’s album, which will also be released on Feb. 16. The project is a musical film held together by the thinnest of narratives.

All is not well when we leave the heart to go to a grand apartment complex made entirely of glass. The Artist has moved on to another relationship, but this one is toxic and abusive. Lopez sings through it and eventually makes her way back to the safety of her friends and her therapist, played by Fat Joe. A Love Story kicks into gear here, with Lopez, always a fine romantic comedy actress, turning on the charm and delivering an engaging performance. There are glimpses into her therapy sessions, during which her analyst probes the Artist about what these relationships, often short-lived and unfulfilling, offer her. In other words, what does she want?

Love, of course. A Love Story is a paean to Lopez’s life as a hopeless romantic and as a Leo. There’s a significant astrology thread in the film, wherein the council of Zodiac signs convenes to discuss their challenging human. Scorpio (Keke Palmer), Cancer (Sofia Vergara), Libra (Trevor Noah), Leo (Post Malone), Taurus (Neil deGrasse Tyson), Virgo (Kim Petras), Aries (Jay Shetty), Pisces (Sadhguru), Gemini (Jennifer Lewis) and Cancer (Jane Fonda) are among the celestial beings that worry about the Artist. The men they throw her way — even the most compatible — don’t seem to stick. The Artist burns through relationships faster than anyone they have ever seen.

The Zodiac council’s concerns are shared by the Artist’s friends, a coterie of shallow characters tasked with providing one-liners and staging an intervention. The Cynic (Matthew Law) is particularly frustrated by the Artist and her inability to be alone. Cruel words are exchanged at the intervention, but the message gets through. The Artist goes to Love Addicts Anonymous (LAA), where she admits she has a problem and performs another song-and-dance number with fellow participants. At the end of it all, she realizes the only way to find lasting love is to heal your inner child. The Artist heads to the Bronx, rendered here in garish CGI, to apologize to her younger self.

A Love Story jerks and jolts until the final number. The film operates according to dream logic — it’s a lot of nonsense peppered with poignant, if obvious, insights. There’s an alternate timeline where A Love Story is a solid romantic comedy instead of a confusing clash of forms and genres. Lopez is most appealing as a leading lady, and in her best roles she harnesses the anxieties and aspirations of hopeless romantics without trying to be so, well, literal. She shows us what it means to live in the fantasy of romance and lets the love story speak for itself.

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