Jennifer Lopez’s Working Class Roots

Jennifer Lopez’s Working Class Roots (photo)

Posted by on

The prevailing story of Jennifer Lopez’s film career has been one of decline, the promise of “Out of Sight” collapsing in a string of simple romantic comedies. Watching these post-Soderbergh movies as a group, though, reveals that Lopez is actually a sly, insolently funny performer, and one who repeatedly selects roles that are defined by their work. Lopez has played a wedding planner, a maid, a dance instructor, a temp, a caterer, a dog walker, and she’s actually depicted on the job.

Hollywood generally prefers to ignore the day-to-day expertise that goes into cleaning a room or serving an appetizer (a telling sign in “Maid in Manhattan” reads, “strive to be invisible”), but Lopez actively seeks out these moments. “The Wedding Planner,” “Maid in Manhattan,” “Shall We Dance,” and “Monster-in-Law” are a remarkably similar quartet in this respect, presenting Lopez as the rare actor who can be read as an auteur (she’s returning to the big screen this weekend with a new rom-com, “The Back-up Plan,” after a four-year absence).

Lopez was famously raised in the Bronx by her Puerto Rican parents, and dropped out of Baruch College after a semester in order to take dance and voice classes. After some work on TV (a backup dancer on “In Living Color,” a supporting role in “South Central”), she shifted to film, landing some minor parts before breaking out with the lead in “Selena.” She plays the late Mexican-American pop star with disarming naïveté, an immaculately carefree teen oblivious to the traps that fame has set for her.

04212010_selena1.jpgImmensely proud of her heritage, Lopez seems to explode with energy in the films set in the Latino community (the aforementioned “Selena,” “Mi Familia” and “El Cantante”), while in her mainstream Hollywood productions she becomes more withholding, mischievous and sarcastic. Perhaps fearful of falling prey to the “hot-blooded Latina” stereotype, Lopez’s romantic comedy roles present her as a series of fiercely independent loners, in love with their jobs more than the men they inevitably marry. Working well within the clichés of the genre, Lopez still manages to offer a more nuanced vision of modern womanhood than her competitors.

Katherine Heigl, the current rom-com queen, is a pleasantly stiff actress, but has never played a character that could possibly exist without a man, or even hold down a job with actual responsibility. In the workplace, which is invariably a brightly lit modernist office, Heigl or Aniston or Bullock wear titles of “editor,” “executive” or “attorney” like a designer dress, their only duty to pursue connubial bliss. In “27 Dresses,” Heigl is solely defined by her “always the bridesmaid” guilt, in love with her boss at an environmental non-profit, which apparently employs her to pine away at a lucite desk. In “The Wedding Planner,” Lopez is at the top of her field and close to making partner. She’s shown expertly corralling a drunk father-in-law, feeding a speech to a nervous best man, and composing the shots for the wedding video.

Heigl is abjectly miserable where Lopez is merely melancholy (and very busy). The plots end up in the same hetero-normative place, but the crucial difference is that Lopez’s eventual marriage is a matter of choice, whereas with Heigl (and Aniston, and Bullock, and so on), it’s posed as a metaphysical necessity. And it’s this freedom to Lopez’s characters that make her comedies so much more fun and revealing, lifting these otherwise rote genre exercises into the category of what Andrew Sarris termed “subjects for further research.” It is what makes her career worth investigating.

04212010_maidinmanhattan1.jpgThis freedom would mean little if Lopez was a bore on-screen, but she has a nifty comedic repertoire. She tends towards arrogance and insolence, hair pulled back and head tilted high, as she steamrolls her way through the workday, a grin creeping in through pursed lips when she lands a verbal or physical blow. When she finally cracks up, it’s with staccato monologues and impulsive bits of violence.

In her best film, “Maid in Manhattan,” she’s a harried hotel maid and single mom, cutting down Amy Sedaris after an offhand racist slur, casually smacking her with the bedspread while in the act of folding. Partly set in the Bronx, it’s an homage to the industrious spirit of her parents, a class-conscious “Cinderella” story that never patronizes its working class characters, and halfway earns the storybook ending. (Notably, in the end credit montage, she’s shown making the cover of Hotel Manager magazine with no bridal publications in sight).


New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

Posted by on

Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…


IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 


IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.


The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

Posted by on
Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”


Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).



Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.


And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.


Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

Posted by on
GIFs via Giffy

In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.


Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.


Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!



Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.


Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.


If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.