Saturday, April 24, 2010

The back-up career

I've noticed that I tend to be pretty snarky during my weekly new-release Friday post.

Not today. And I'm going to praise an unlikely person: Jennifer Lopez.

It's become the default position for many entertainment writers to discuss J-Lo in dismissive terms. She's certainly had her career lows, there's no doubt about that.

But like her former flame Ben Affleck, she seems to have disappeared from the spotlight for a couple years, and emerged more confident and likable. So likable, in fact, that I find myself sort of wanting to see The Back-up Plan.

I've always had a little soft spot for Lopez, but it's not for the reason you might think -- she's attractive, yes, but her famous derriere didn't contribute to this feeling about her. I guess I've tended to find her sort of charming and natural in her acting. She hasn't always given great performances -- far from it. But I feel like she has good instincts as an actor and can be really likable when she gets the right script.

It was her decision to become a diva that turned me against her.

I discussed this in one of my earliest posts, which you can find here, but I get kind of annoyed when actors who are having perfectly nice acting careers decide that they have to go for broke by becoming singers/rock stars. What, acting alone isn't good enough? It makes me think they're asking for too much. Just be satisfied with what you've got, which is already a lot more than most people have. The fact that she actively sought to make acting her back-up career curdled my affection for her.

True, J-Lo would have been just a mid-level ingenue, and not one of the most famous people in the world, if she had never embarked on a singing career. But from where I stand, I'd trade huge fame for mid-level fame and artistic credibility, any day.

I have to admit, the fact that I found her music pretty uninteresting certainly made it harder to applaud the decision. Even the catchy songs didn't really get my toes tapping.

Plus there's the fact that the beginning of her divahood was also the beginning of her decline. Perhaps that's a bit counterintuitive, because it was also the beginning of her ascent. But would any of us have been so quick to become annoyed with her if we weren't seeing her everywhere? As "just" an actress, we wouldn't have been seeing her everywhere.

But I think the key to my realization that I may want to give Jennifer Lopez a second chance was her appearance on Saturday Night Live back in February. I still wasn't thrilled with her song performances, but I thought the skits were excellent through and through. And it was Lopez' deft comic timing that I considered to be the key. Not only was she funny and natural, seeming to rely very little on her cue cards, but she played a variety of different roles, each of them well.

So, The Back-Up Plan. It's just a conventional romantic comedy/chick flick that tries to get a little edge by including poop jokes. I've read one review and heard another on the radio that confirmed as much.

But I will probably see it on video eventually anyway, because I think J-Lo may just bring a little of that SNL magic to this movie. And maybe, just maybe, it's the start of her rediscovering that acting, rather than singing, is her true calling.

No comments: