SELENA

(1997)
With Jennifer Lopez, Edward James Olmos
Directed by Gregory Nava
Reviewed by JB

J-Lo, Sweet Chariot     As I mention in my review of THE BUDDY HOLLY STORY, some lives are tragically too short to make for an outstanding bio-pic.  But sometimes, the star is so good, it offsets the lack of drama.  Such is the case with SELENA, the story of Mexican-American tejano singer Selena Quintanilla Perez, a beautiful and talented performer who was fatally shot by her fan club manager in 1995, just two weeks shy of her 24th birthday.  If you want to remember how captivating the pre-"diva /J-Lo/ Jenny from the Block" Jennifer Lopez could be, SELENA is the film to watch.

     Although there was initially some controversy over the choice of the Puerto Rican Lopez as Selena, it is hard to imagine her sweet, natural portrayal not winning over most fans.  Lopez creates a Selena that is not only beautiful and talented, but also childlike and completely lovable.  It is the performance that put Lopez on the map as an actress, but, although she has remained a competent actress, her career has sadly not lived up to its initial promise.

     Lopez does not sing (Selena's recordings are used) but she has the right dance moves for the music, and, naturally, she does a fine job filling out the pop-star's sexy and sometimes outrageous stage outfits, although, even blessed with one of the most famous posteriors in the world, Lopez reportedly still wore "butt pads" to approximate the singer's memorable backside.  The music itself is fine, though I highly prefer the early Tex-Mex songs such as the catchy "Bidi Bidi Bom Bom" to the later "crossover" hits like "I Could Fall in Love With You", which, like most pop music from the past decade and a half, is so carefully produced that it sounds like nobody and everybody at the same time.   The film does not show the actual shooting, but cuts to the aftermath, and ends, in a selflessly sweet move, with actual footage of the star herself intercut with fan vigils.

    SELENA, which also features a quality turn by Edward James Olmos as Selena's father, is a nice movie, not a great one.  But, like Gary Busey in THE BUDDY HOLY STORY, Lopez and her engaging performance makes it all worthwhile. - JB  

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