Lopez, Matthew McConaughey in The Wedding Planner.
Lopez and Constance Wu in Hustlers.
It is the year of Jennifer Lopez.
If that feels like it’s happened already, it’s true. We’ve never, exactly, stopped fangirling Lopez. But now, with a leading role in Hustlers , one of the biggest movies of the year, Lopez has been billed as the frontrunner for just about every Best Actress award — including the Oscar, come February.
Although she kickstarted her career combining her talents — first as a Fly Girl on In Living Color in the early ’90s and, later, as Selena Quintanilla in 1997’s Selena — Lopez would go on to make a name for herself as a rom-com lead.
In a recent Hollywood Reporter roundtable, Lopez explained the choices she made early in her career, “When I first started, one of the things that I wanted to do, because I was Puerto Rican, Latina, was that I wanted to be in romantic comedies, because I felt like all the women in romantic comedies always looked the same way, they were always white. I am the hopeless romantic, I am the single working woman, I was those things. And I remember thinking, I need to be the lead in a romantic comedy. And that’s one of the things I went for and that’s one of the things me and my agents talked about.”
That concerted effort resulted in The Wedding Planner, Maid in Manhattan, The Back-up Plan, Shall We Dance, Monster-in-Law , the recent Second Act, and the upcoming Marry Me, the latter two of which she produced. While they may not have been the best of the genre, they made an impact. In 2001, she famously had both the No. 1 movie ( The Wedding Planner ) and No. 1 album ( J. Lo ) in the same week.
Still, there’s a difference between being a star and a talent. And while there has never been any mistaking Lopez can work a stage, she’s never been exalted for her acting.
That’s even with a surprisingly consistent acting career that’s spanned three decades, which recently saw her take the lead in crime series Shades of Blue for three seasons while also performing her Las Vegas residency and working as a judge on American Idol. In fact, after completing work on Hustlers , Lopez immediately went on tour, then had her 50th birthday, then walked in Versace’s show in Milan in a version of that green dress she wore two decades before, then began shooting Marry Me .
She’s always been at it (and everything else).
But with Hustlers — in which Lopez plays Ramona, the captain of a crew of former strippers who conned Wall Street-types for their money — the substance is undeniable, in the story, the role and the performance. Even the physicality; Lopez insisted director Lorene Scafaria include close-up shots of her face while dancing so audiences would no there was no stunt double at work.
It’s a role that holds the same swagger Lopez brought to Selena , Out of Sight (where she stole scenes from co-star George Clooney) and Enough , where she takes down her abusive ex-husband. It’s what she does best — on screen and off.
It’s present when she opens Hustlers with a spellbinding pole-dance routine to the tune of Fiona Apple’s “Criminal” (a not-so-odd musical choice made my Lopez herself), when she comforts newbie stripper Destiny and tells her to “climb in my fur,” and when she rings up each lascivious man’s credit card, one by one.
Often celebrated for her music, right now it’s Jennifer Lopez, the actress, that is racking up nominations: at the Golden Globes (two decades after her nod for Selena ), at the Screen Actors Guild, at the Independent Spirit Awards.
The recognition has come as a surprise to Lopez herself, who tweeted a video Wednesday after learning she’d been nominated for a SAG Award. She said, tearfully, “So excited and so humbled to be recognized by my fellow actors out there. You know, acting was my first love along with dancing and I just can’t believe all of this is happening. To all the struggling actors out there, don’t give up! It could happen. It’s happening. Thank you so much. I feel like I already won.”
That’s the thing — she really has. This isn’t a Lopezaissance. In a recent GQ profile, Lopez said herself, “Don’t call it a comeback — I been here for years!”
She’s done a lot, more than most, and paved her own way. And she continues to do so. In February, she’ll perform at the Super Bowl Halftime Show and, a week later, she’ll be at the Oscars.
But whether she wins the gold or not, it will continue to be the year of Jennifer Lopez now, then and the years after that. She’s proven it.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019