So Jennifer Lopez is back on the warpath. She made a humanizing appearance on American Idol recently, and now she’s searching for her credibility as an actress, which — yes, haters — she at one point actually had, after a stretch of five films from 1996 to ’98 that included Blood and Wine, Selena and U Turn, and culminated with Out of Sight. Paring down her ridiculous profile is one thing that’s clearly within her control (there were times in 2002 when I believe she was doing perfume launch concerts at openings of various Arby’s), but the other thing she really has to do is find some solid dramatic material that reinvents her with critics and, more importantly, reestablishes her with audiences, so that she can then slip back into the sort of glossy, lucrative, utterly forgettable commercial vehicles (Angel Eyes, Maid in Manhattan, Monster-in-Law, et al) that provide her with the ample amounts of fine lotion to which her derriere and legs have become accustomed.
The treacly An Unfinished Life wasn’t such a project, and it ain’t gonna happen with the salsa-movement-starter biopic El Cantante, in which Lopez costars with her emaciated husband, Marc Anthony. It looks like Lopez is doubling down on the socially conscious thriller Bordertown, which reteams her with Selena director Gregory Nava (a good thing), and costars Antonio Banderas, Martin Sheen (of course) and Sonia Braga. But the movie’s just-announced August 31 release date, from distributor THINKFilm, indicates that no one has much confidence in this as any sort of legitimate awards contender, and early, mixed-trending-negative word that’s leaked out from test screenings confirms as much.
Bordertown tells the story of Lauren Fredricks (Lopez), an
ambitious newspaper reporter who’s sent to Juarez, Mexico by her editor (Sheen) to investigate what has happened to hundreds of women who have disappeared, and how local police and authorities have been covering up their brutal rapes and
murders. Lauren looks up her former colleague (and lover, naturally) Alfonso Diaz
(Banderas, above left), and they soon uncover one of
the hottest stories of the year when they come across the only known survivor
of one of these mysterious attacks. The victim is initially reluctant to speak, but
Lauren eventually convinces her to break the silence.
These sorts of earnest-crusader flicks always look good on paper, and I’m not doubting this particular story has some puncher’s worth, but it doesn’t take into account the root of Lopez’s chief appeal, which has always been in parts smoldering, larger-than-life, vengeful, or some loose, rangy combination thereof. The notion of her as an underdog advocate, however driven, still underwhelms. We’ll see. Bordertown doesn’t have the scent of a hit, though, either with critics en masse or the public. Lopez’s quest may have to continue…