I was pretty [justifiably] contemptuous of this movie when it came out, but after a while I started to want to see precisely how loathsome it is. In addition to that, I believe that as Americans we stand united… in the desire to mock and belittle Jennifer Lopez. And she makes it soooo easy.
Before the movie even begins, we notice the horror movie tone of the menu, showing wedding photos saturated in blood red while ominous music plays. Then the movie begins. This movie inserts little chapter titles between certain scenes… before it forgets this whole thing and drops them for the second half. So, before the first frame, we have a title: “Hey.” Then we see J-Lo as the world’s most perfect and glamorous diner waitress… she looks gorgeous, sasses the cook in a friendly way, gossips with her friend Juliette Lewis, and returns a rattle to a baby! Then a title: How they met.
This guy comes on to her [and Juliette, who turns out to be a fount of terrible advice, advises “Go for it! He’s cuuuuuute!”], and you, the audience, are sitting there like “is THAT the husband?” but no, because then this guy sitting behind the fellow breaks in and tells J.Lo that the guy is picking her up in order to win a bet! Then J.Lo makes as “pained” a face as she can through the solid wall of Botoxed flesh that insulates her skull, as she asks “How much? I want to know what I’m worth.” Then we have a title: To Have and To Hold, and suddenly they’re married! And you’re sitting there saying “Wait a minute, we are NOT hearing ‘This Guy’s In Love With You,’ are we?” But oh yes, you sure are. And J.Lo and her hubby dance as he tells her “You’re safe with me, Slim. It’s okay to be happy.” [Oh, did I mention that J.Lo’s name is Slim? Yeah.] While this is happening Juliette is flirting with J.Lo’s ex, who tells her that J.Lo left him because he’s no good in bed!
Sooner than you can say “breeding unit” J.Lo is pregnant, and she sees a house she likes, so her husband tells the owner, who is not selling, that he wants to buy it. When the guy refuses, Bill, the husband, threatens to harrass and intimidate him and his familty like a crazy man until he relents. And I think it’s important to note that J.Lo both lets him do this horrible thing without a protest, and actually seems to find it charming and romantic. They move in, J.Lo pops the baby out [the husband takes the child in the hospital and won’t let J.Lo hold it], and the next time we join them it’s like four years later, judging by the age of the child. Oh by the way, by now we’ve all noticed the Lilith Fair-ready hit soundtrack, and you’re like “Uh, should a movie about a serious topic like abuse of women really have a cheap shitty pop soundtrack that they are relentlessly trying to promote?” And you know, we haven’t even gotten to J.Lo’s own hit single for the movie yet.
So the hot, hot J.Lo is once more sexually unsatisfied, as her husband refuses to let her join him in the shower. She goes downstairs and someone pings him on his cell, and she calls back and finds that he’s having an affair! J.Lo tries to throw some serious acting as she demands that the woman give her name [“I think you owe me at least that much,” and you’re like “Uh… why?”]. We also have a title: More Than Enough. Bill comes downstairs and she confronts him, and he says that it’s his right as a man. He has the money and he makes the rules, and it’s good, because now he can be open about his other relationships. She says she’ll leave, and he says that if she tries, he’ll find her and keep her. “I always get what I want, and I refuse to live without you.”
Now, this husband has apparently been the perfect father for the past four years, and it seems that J.Lo has had no reason to complain, but SUDDENLY he goes PSYCHO! And from here on out, he is SO off-the-chart insane that any thought of taking this movie seriously is out the window. This guy is truly the Jason Voorhees of abusive husbands, unstoppable, and apparently spending every waking moment and exorbitant sums of his money just to torment her.
So J.Lo goes to Juliette, and says “I’m not the kind of person whose husband beats her up,” and you’re like “HOLD IT RIGHT THERE, SISTER! So apparently there IS a kind of woman who lets her husband beat her up? And it’s kind of okay or at least expected that they do because, well, they’re the kind of woman who that sort of thing happens to?” And this movie is supposed to be supportive of abused women? Stay tuned, kids, there’s more content like this coming right up!
So J.Lo goes to the police, looking LUDICROUSLY glamorous for a desperate abused woman on the run [right], but then again, I guess she’s really not the kind of person whose husband beats her up. The police offer help, but this is one of those movies where all of the police procedures that require physical evidence, etc., before the police can take legal action are trumped up, and J.Lo leaves feeling like they’re no help, and never again goes to the police throughout the remainder of the film.
Then one night J.Lo is going to take the kid and run away, so she wakes up in the middle of the night, tiptoeing around as she gets dressed and takes the kid. WHY she can’t do this during the day, while he’s at work and she has several hours of uninterrupted leisure, is never explained. Now, what I mean by that the husband is the Jason Voorhees of abusive husbands is exemplified as he suddenly bursts out of the closet as her hand is on the doorknob. Last time we saw him he was asleep in bed, so this means that while she was getting dressed, he snuck downstairs and hid himself in the closet... which is LUDICROUS. Then J.Lo’s friends burst in [against Juliette’s advice, who is going on about “Oh, she’s FINE,”], and after some shots fired J.Lo and the kid get away.
So then the evil husband cancels all of her credit cards and freezes her accounts [it IS all his money, no?] and we are forced to contend with the inconceivable indignity that J.Lo has to SLEEP IN A CHEAP MOTEL! YES! Yes, EVEN J.Lo! [And many times in here you’re like, uh, wasn’t she a diner waitress before? She sure got used to the high life.] There is a lot of talk in here about wanting to protect the innocent Gracie [that’s the kid] from all this, so she won’t be “tainted.” Yes, this movie IS saying that kids from abusive homes are “tainted.” But I guess only “the kind of women whose husbands beat them up” have “tainted” kids, so you know, no one really has to care. But that ain’t all! Turns out Jason Voorhees-husband has bugged J.Lo’s room! And he’s right outside the door! So she runs and escapes on a public bus. Now, anyone who has ever used a public bus knows that they do not just close their doors and speed off… but whatever, there’s just too much here to even expect… well, anything.
So she goes over to the ex’s, Joe, who is played by Dan Futterman, co-writer of Capote. You will recall that she left Joe because he’s a wet rag in the sack, but now she says she feels “safe” with him. That’s your choice, ladies! Hot guys who will sex you down, but kill you, or “safe” guys who don’t have sex. What’s it gonna be?
But J.Lo isn’t “safe” even there, as her husband has sent three goons posing as FBI agents looking for the “kidnapped” child. One of the goons threatens Joe with a knife, and soon enough the husband calls him and says that he can [somehow] legally kill Joe and get away with it. So J.Lo hot-foots it out of there, having brought only terror and destruction of property to her friend. Thanks, hon!
So she goes to see her Dad, played by hot sleazoid Fred Ward. I need to rent Henry and June soon. Anyway, he apparently never acknowledged that J.Lo was his daughter [and how exactly did she find him? And what proof does she have of his paternity?] and she hits him up for money, after first denying that she wants any money, just saying that she wanted her daughter to meet her grandfather, and apparently to continue to traumatize the little girl in the process. Dad gives her $12 for a sandwich. You see, even Dad’s a scoundrel who just knocks women up and takes off without a shred of responsibility for his offspring. Cursed men!
We then are led to consider the indignity that J.Lo has to sleep in a homeless shelter! Obviously this cannot stand—and what a miracle, the three thugs visited Dad, and it just got his goat so much that he decided to send J.Lo like $200,000—in cash.
So it turns out that $200,000 in cash [this is my estimate based on the pile of fifties we saw] is enough to buy a gorgeous house in Northern Michigan, furnish it, and fix it up. J.Lo is seen in a little “fixer-upper” montage, which implies to me that he husband has left her alone for at least a month or two.
Then one day she sees Robby—the guy from the diner way back when who said he was picking her up for a bet. You see, Robby and the husband were in on it from the start, when the husband saw J.Lo and decided that he would “have” her, apparently, so they cooked up that whole scheme. Please take a moment to reflect privately on whether that makes ANY KIND OF SENSE WHATSOEVER. You see what I mean about this husband being so off-the-chart evil that it is impossible to consider any of this seriously? Okay, it’s fine, have a movie like this, but please don’t go on to say that it has any kind of relevance to reality—let alone a serious topic like domestic abuse!
So Joe has come to visit, and, after a little excitement generated by the idea of the four-year-old being kidnapped, J.Lo tells him that he’s “not that bad” in bed [Gee! Thanks!] and he, in return, tells her “you’re a GREAT person.” Then—hubby arrives!
J.Lo takes a lesson from Nancy in Nightmare on Elm Street and has rigged a little gizmo outside to lock intruders in [no sledgehammer involved, sadly], and takes off in the car. Then, despite the fact that both J.Lo and her husband supposedly put their child above all else, they have a car chase in which hubby tries to drive J.Lo off the road. Then we discover that the ever-resourceful J.Lo has planted little escape kits at strategic points along probable routes within a 50-mile radius.
She then goes to this wise black lawyer who she—what, heard about on Oprah?—and offers him $500 to “just listen” to her for “two minutes.” Now, okay, maybe I’m super picky, but it drives me crazy the way she is supposed to be all flustered and all her money, packed into little wads, comes out all over the guy’s desk to show us all that she may not be organized, but she is sincere [so sincere that she can’t fold bills!] and, more importantly, has HEART. Okay, so she can’t afford a wallet? Is that what we’re supposed to think? I also think that she says that this money is “all she’s got,” which is a bare-faced lie, as she continues high on the hog for quite some time, and also, is it really that good an idea to pay $500 for two minutes of someone’s time? But of course, J.Lo is lying again: after he tosses off 120 seconds of advice, she says “That’s it? You’re not going to HELP?” But Grrrr, that detail about the wadded bills to show how very sincere she is really annoys me. HOW many times do we have to see that in movies? This movie is all cliches held together with scotch tape, and no one cares that some of them directly contradict each other.
But of course the old wise black man has EXPERIENCE dealing with psycho husbands who arrange to court and marry women, wait four years, then go absolutely bonkers and sneak into closets, wiretap motel rooms, etc., and he tells her—based on his extensive knowledge of the case—that her husband is planning on killing her. Please note that the husband has in fact never made this claim, and this lawyer guy’s word is the only indication we have in this direction, which J.Lo and the movie take as full justification for in fact ending his life. Oh God, I just gave it away!
SPOILERS > > > So Juliette appears again out of the blue to take the little munchkin out of J.Lo’s hair for a while while she trains to be an avenger, although I wouldn’t trust Juliette’s character in this movie with any item I wanted returned. J.Lo then engages this personal trainer to learn the ancient arts of kakalaka [or whatever the micro-brand of martial arts is in this movie]. Now, she is getting extensive, individualized husband-killing training, and you’re like WHO is paying for all this? I guess her dear old Dad is, who abruptly decided to fully fund his daughter’s murderous quest, although the only thanks J.Lo sees fit to offer him is “I’m going to demand that one day you acknowledge me as your daughter.”
So then we see that the womanizing cad husband, who must lead a focus group in brainstorming sessions centered around generating new, out-of-the-box ideas on how to be evil, leaves one woman and immediately calls another. Then he leaves, and J.Lo breaks into the house. She hides all the sharp objects and uses this special gun-finding wand [do they have such things? And it’s clicking so, I was like “what, is she testing for radiation?”], and cutting the phone lines. She then closes her eyes and learns the apartment blind. She’s like a Jedi. Holy shit, wouldn’t it be hot if they made a new Star Wars movie where Pam Grier trained to be a Jedi and then whupped the asses of multiple wrong-doin’ stormtroopers?
Now, what every abused woman who’s going into battle with her husband needs is obviously a day at the SPA, which J.Lo indulges in. She then needs moral support, so she calls up Juliette, who advises her that “you have a divine, animal right to protect yourself and your offspring.” I’d love to see the sequel, in which we see how the “divine animal right” argument goes over in courts. But of course, those are MALE-dominated courts. Evil, evil men!
So hubby comes home and he can’t believe that J.Lo wants to fight him “Man to man.” “Woman, Mitch,” J.Lo responds. They fight, and she bests him, and is about to finish the job with a conveniently available large piece of cement tile, but she can’t do it! God damn it, she cannot take a human life! So she again calls Juliette, and acknowledges that hubby is going to come after her again—but she still can’t do it! Luckily, he rises up in the background, as all serial killers must, and is about to kill her when she unleashes the J.Lo power and kicks his ass through the curiously insecure banister. As she is finally finishing him off, a greatest-hits-of-domestic-abuse montage appears, designed to really get all the angry women in the audience super pumped. It’s most weighted image is of the husband hurting the daughter, which causes J.Lo to make the very pootiest face she’s got. So raw!
< < < SPOILERS END
We then get some credits for the hit soundtrack—available on Sony compact discs at local retailers—which contains hits by Jewel and Sheryl Crow, a track “Enough,” by Aimee Mann—who lost an additional 80 points for apparently composing a song specifically for this piece of shit-—and "Alive” by J.Lo herself, from the album “J. To Tha L-O!”
Okay, so let’s talk LOPEZ. It seems that this role was selected not just to expand J.Lo’s demographic base and further engender her brand, but to showcase that she can act. The problem standing in her way of anyone taking her seriously as an actress is that she, or her handlers, are too afraid to let her BE anyone but J.Lo. She is LUDICROUSLY glamorous throughout this movie [despite comments in the movie that she’s ugly and fat], she is always in the finest consumer products [when not tragically ghettoing it, which the movie invites us to consider a fate worse than death], and finally, she seems to have lost the ability to put image management out of her mind. At every second here, you can see her calculating “Here I am, now J.Lo is a humble diner waitress! Now J.Lo is throwing an Oscar clip in her Dad’s office!” Lastly, if you want to be taken seriously as an actress in a supposedly serious role, do not contribute a hit single to the soundtrack, and do NOT have the album that single is on be called “J. To Tha L-O!”
There IS a video to that single on the DVD, featuring J.Lo “composing” at the piano while clips from the movie play in the background. There is also the trailer, which does in fact tell you the entire story from beginning to end, leaving the only pleasure left to audiences the act of watching it be played out. The trailer features amped-up graphic intertitles such as “THIS SUMMER” that convey the idea that watching a woman be tormented for 90 minutes and then kill her husband IS exciting summer entertainment.
And finally, why are we in this place as a country where this is acceptable mainstream entertainment? It’s true that there are many, many horror films in which women are tortured and killed, and they are quite problematic, but almost all of them at least ostensibly [though perhaps wholly disingenuously] portray the killer as, you know, BAD, and the killings as a bad thing. Can you imagine a major summer release from Tri-Star Motion Pictures in which a man is tormented by his raging psycho wife and the audiences are invited to cheer as he violently kills her?*
If you want, it will sure give you plenty of material to mock it with.
*Now, before you say Fatal Attraction, recall that in that film the entire movie was about how this is punishment for the man for his infidelity, and that it is actually the wife who kills the psycho at the end.