Inside Jennifer Lopez’s Return to the Block for ‘Halftime’ World Premiere at Tribeca Festival

·4-min read

“They’re coming out of the woodwork!”

Jennifer Lopez is gushing in delight as an impromptu flash mob breaks out — to the tune of “Jenny From the Block,” naturally — on the red carpet of “Halftime,” her new documentary that opened the 2022 Tribeca Festival. “Only in New York,” she said, letting out a “woo.”

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Wednesday’s world premiere doubled as a homecoming, of sorts, for the global icon, who grew up only a few blocks from the United Palace in Washington Heights, where the movie played to 3,000 mostly maskless audience members. Lin-Manuel Miranda, Anna Wintour and Pam Grier were among the bold-faced names in attendance. In the hours leading up to the screening, dozens of fans lined up around the block in the hopes of snagging a look, and maybe even a photograph, of the guest of honor.

The crowds accumulated outside as Lopez arrived fashionably late to the red carpet, which immediately descended into chaos as photographers scrambled to snap pictures and journalists tried to lob questions in her direction before she hustled into the theater.

Though Lopez hardly spent any time talking to reporters, there was plenty of praise to go around on the red carpet.

Given Lopez’s decades-long career in Hollywood — she debuted as a Fly Girl on “In Living Color” in 1991 and became a household name after starring in 1997’s musical biopic “Selena” — “Halftime” director Amanda Micheli certainly had no shortage of archival material and fun concert footage to sift through. The filmmaker says she hopes viewers “see a human side of [Lopez].”

“I don’t feel pressure from the fans. We figured the fans would love the movie. I’m more concerned about the haters or people who were neutral,” Micheli told Variety. “Look, if the fans don’t like the movie, I’m in trouble!”

Tribeca Festival co-founder Robert De Niro praised Lopez’s enduring presence in pop culture. “She’s determined. She perseveres. She believes in herself and keeps going… and that’s great.” Does the revered actor have a favorite J. Lo song? He may, but it’s possible he doesn’t know the name. “I listen to songs I don’t even know the titles of,” he said with a laugh. “There are songs I like, but I’m bad at [the name of] well-known songs.”

“Today” host Hoda Kotb, who has interviewed Lopez at length and appears in the documentary, came to the event as “a fan and a friend,” while rapper French Montana, who wrote “Medicine” and “Same Girl” with Lopez, calls her “a big inspiration” and “my big sister.”

Inside the venue, event-goers grew increasingly impatient as the clock ticked closer to 8 p.m. (The screening was called for 7 p.m.) “This is getting ridiculous,” said one disgruntled audience member.

Any annoyances seemed to quickly dissolve as “Halftime” finally started to roll. Several moments played to massive applause, among them: Lopez calling out then-president Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric, an all-too-brief interview from fiancé Ben Affleck, and the return of her iconic green Versace dress. Though Lopez has been famous most of her life, the documentary does not spent too much time on earlier “Selena” or “J to tha L–O!” days. The movie opens on her 50th birthday party in July 2019 and cycles through the greatest hits in the following months: Oscar buzz for her role in “Hustlers” as a strip club ringleader named Ramona, her high-octane Super Bowl halftime show alongside Shakira, and performing at Joe Biden’s presidential inauguration.

“They were two epic moments in my life,” she told reporters on the carpet in reference to the Super Bowl and the inauguration. “For me, they were both about putting out the right messages at the right time.”

Jennifer Lopez at the world premiere of her documentary, “Halftime.” - Credit: Getty Images
Jennifer Lopez at the world premiere of her documentary, “Halftime.” - Credit: Getty Images

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Watching the documentary, Lopez continued, “I learned […] it wasn’t about me. It was about the moment [and] how I could contribute to that.”

Guests were encouraged to stay through the end credits for a “special performance,” though at the end of the night, it wasn’t J.Lo who grabbed the mic. Instead, young Latina dancers and singers took the stage for a mashup of Lopez’s hit “Let’s Get Loud” and Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.” — a homage to the number that inspired the doc’s title.

“Thank you so much,” Lopez, from somewhere in the audience, said as the lights came back on. “I didn’t plan to say anything. I was going to sneak out and go to the afterparty.”

A millisecond later, someone shouted: “Can you sing something?”

“Halftime” producer Dave Broome had to break the news: “She’s gone.”

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