Nuyorican superstar Jennifer Lopez currently finds herself basking in the glory of some of the best reviews of her career for playing a charming, determined, incisive and jaw-droppingly skilled stripper in Lorene Scafaria’s thrilling Hustlers.
Following the film’s premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival this week, glowing praise for J. Lo’s performance flooded the Internet with leading industry publications, such as Variety, Vanity Fair, The Hollywood Reporter, People, and The Daily Beast, declaring the actress and singer a serious contender for an Academy Award nomination. Lopez, who was grossly snubbed of that honor for her transformative, star-making role embodying Mexican-American icon Selena, was overwhelmed when discovering Hustlers has already made such an impact.
Visibly emotional, the Bronx-native told Today host Hoda Kotb that she cried in her hotel room while reading the acclaim and awards talk: “You work hard your whole life and you wonder if anybody notices in a sense. Like, on that level, to be in that conversation. You have dreams when you are a little girl of being there, you know what I mean?”
Far more than just a physically demanding performance, although of course, that aspect shines impeccably, Lopez’s Ramona is a woman fighting, using the very body, which she has been objectified and victimized for, against a testosterone-fueled system. Not only does Ramona brim with empowerment, but there’s also emotional complexity expressed through her maternal instincts and sincere camaraderie – in spite of how morally questionable her actions become. Moments of true depth paired with dazzling moves, make for layered acting that’s more intricate than what meets the eye. In other words, the caliber of her part is awards-worthy.
With the entertainment industry at crossroads for representation, further proven by the recent release of the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative’s study on the near absence of Latinos in Hollywood, the significance of J. Lo’s Oscar buzz resonates beyond how utterly deserved it would be for her startling turn.
While Latin American actresses have sporadically been recognized by the Academy over the years – Salma Hayek (Frida), Catalina Sandino Moreno (Maria Full of Grace), Adriana Barraza (Babel), Fernanda Montenegro (Central Station), and just last year, Yalitza Aparicio and Marina de Tavira for Roma – U.S. Latinas have been mostly shut out of the Oscars. It’s been 25 years since a U.S.-born Latina was nominated in any of the acting categories, the last being Rosie Perez, who received a nomination for Best Supporting Actress for her work in Fearless back in 1994.
On The View, fellow Nuyorican Sunny Hostin told J. Lo, “Our community has had Rita Moreno and you,” in reference to how relevant Lopez has been to Latino, and specifically Puerto Rican culture. If the Hustlers buzz does result in a nomination for J. Lo, she would be making history and hopefully reopening the door for more U.S. Latinas to enter those often-off-limits circles of perceived excellence.
Here’s what critics at major sites and social media users are saying about Lopez’s performance.
“If there’s any justice, Jennifer Lopez will receive her first Oscar nomination for channeling the ringleader Ramona as Erin Brockovich by way of Matthew McConaughey in Magic Mike,” Variety’s Ramin Setoodeh firmly stated.
Rolling Stone’s Peter Travers said, “A Best Actress Oscar nomination for Jennifer Lopez? You better believe it. As a stripper who can work a pole better than rivals half her age, Lopez is that dazzling, that deep, that electrifying. This you don’t want to miss.”
Writing for the Los Angeles Times, critic Justin Chang added to the enthusiasm: “Lopez gives her most electrifying screen performance since Out of Sight, slipping the movie into her nonexistent pocket from the moment she strides out onto a neon-lighted stage in a rhinestone bodysuit.”
“Blessed with one of the most memorable entrances in recent cinema history, Lopez slinks through Hustlers with a deceptive ease, as in control of the film as her character is of her situation,” noted Benjamin Lee of The Guardian.
In her review for Time Magazine, Stephanie Zacharek described the performance in depth: “Lopez has no vanity in this performance; Ramona is essentially out for number one, and Lopez channels her ruthlessness as well as her generosity. But her charm, that quality you can’t teach or fake, is the layer of cream floating above it all.”
Similarly, the Washington Post’s Ann Hornaday was also captivated by the multitalented star: “In this raunchy, gloriously liberated revenge fantasy, Lopez rules with seductive, triumphant authority. Not only do we climb into her fur, we’ll happily follow her anywhere.”
And here are some great reactions from fans and industry professionals on Twitter: