Director: Gregory Nava
Cast: Jennifer Lopez, Edward James Olmos, Jon Seda, Jackie Guerra
Released: March 21, 1997
Late at night when all the world is sleeping...
I stay up and think of you...
and I still can't believe
that you came up to me
and said, "I love you."
....I love you too!
That's my favorite line from my favorite Selena song. To be fair, I only know two of her songs: "Dreaming of You" and "I Could Fall in Love", both of which are featured in this movie, to nobody's surprise. This is a biopic about Selena Quintanilla (yes, she did have a last name!), a Mexican-American growing up in Texas who started singing with her brother and sister when she was around 12 in a band her father created, then started branching out as a solo singer when she became a teenager. Even though she knew English (I believe it was her first language), she sung in Spanish so she was very popular with the Spanish-speaking population of America, and Mexico, of course. In fact, I just checked Wiki and it said her father had to teach her how to say the words phonetically, so she did not know Spanish. I guess he thought it would be an easier market than the English-speaking one! She was nominated for Best Mexican/American album (I had no idea that was even a category!) at the Grammys in 1994 and won which propelled her status with the rest of the world and was invited to make her first English-speaking album which came out the next year.
Now none of this really warrants a movie about someone's life. It's great to see someone slowly become more successful, but there were really no struggles that she had to go through (well, that's not totally true...she did have a couple, but we'll get to those later). But it's not like she was Tina Turner who literally came from nothing to make something of herself, only to have to endure with an abusive spouse. The reason that there is a biopic about Selena is because she was murdered at the very young age of 23. We'll get to who murdered her, and why and how and all that later. She was murdered in 1995 and this movie came out two years later (in fact, almost to the date as she was killed on March 31). It does seem like they were trying to capitalize on her death by having the movie released only a couple years later...you know they probably made it only a year after she died. But if they got the family's permission (which I believe they did), then that's all that matters.
|Before she was|
Jennifer Lopez plays Selena. At the time, she wasn't J-Lo as we all know and love her. (Or not if you're not a J-Lo fan!) This was her first starring role. She was 28 and plays Selena from ages 17-23. She looks young enough that it's not an issue and when she plays teenaged Selena they do a good job with giving her a short haircut with bangs and dress her in denim shorts and clothes a teen would wear. Her hair was really dark...even more dark than when you see Lopez with dark hair, like it was almost black. When she had bangs, I could see "Selena" and forget that Jennifer Lopez was there...except when she talked because Jennifer Lopez always sounds like, well, Jennifer Lopez! But when she had her hair back and didn't have bangs, oh man, all I saw was Jennifer Lopez. Especially in this one scene where she's wearing a leather newsboy cap that totally screams J-Lo. All I could see was a young Jennifer Lopez. It was a little distracting. Of course, I'm seeing this movie all these years later after Jennifer Lopez has become a huge name in the business, so of course it's going to be distracting. At the time this movie was released, she had been in a few things, but hadn't become what she is now. But I think she did very well for her first starring role. When she sang, they used Selena's tracks over the song so you would hear her voice, which thank God, because Selena was a much better singer than J-Lo is! Plus it would be weird hearing J-Lo's voice singing Selena's songs! Here is a photo of the real Selena next to Jennifer Lopez:
The most interesting part of the movie and the thing she struggles with most is her relationship with her band's guitarist, Chris Perez (Jon Seda). Chris comes from a rough and tumble background that her father and manager (Edward James Olmos) does not approve of, but he plays one hell of a guitar which is why he got the gig. Her father is very strict with her. He does not like her wearing her studded brasiers, even though she would wear them with pants so it wasn't like she was showing that much skin! Actually, the worst outfit she wears in the entire movie is what (appeared to be) was her final performance. She was wearing this purple jumpsuit and it was open at the stomach so you could see skin there...which was just really weird. Plus J-Lo and her Kim Kardishan-sized butt looked ridiculous in it. Maybe the real Selena pulled it off better, although she would still have that weird stomach baring circle of non-fabric. Her best outfit was the dress she wore at the Grammys. But I'm getting off topic...after her father discovered they were in a relationship, he yelled at both of them, accused Chris of only wanting to be with his daughter for her money,
Sometimes this movie played like a really bad episode of Ugly Betty, you know the hijinks of a Mexican-American family. But even Ugly Betty was never as bad as this movie got sometimes. For instance, there's a scene when a young-and-upcoming Selena is driving somewhere in a van with her brother and sister and it breaks down so they have to pull over by the side of the road. The brother tries to wave some cars down, but they pass, and Selena says, "Let me show you how it's done" and of course she gets the first car to pull over because she's beautiful and wearing skimpy clothes and there are two young guys in the car who pull over to help them. They get really excited when they realize the hot chick they're going to help is Selena and say in these really thick accents, "Ooh, eeet's Seeeleeeenaaaaa!" But that wasn't the worst part. No, the worse part is when they're about to call their dad to let them know that the van broke down and Selena says, "I can just see it now" and then she mocks her dad saying, "You guys did what!?!?!?" Then cut to their father on the phone exclaiming, "You guys did what?!?!?" Oh my God, it was SO bad! So terrible! So cringeworthy. So awful. That was the worst example, but it was little things like that which didn't elevate the movie any higher.
There was another scene which I'm 150 percent sure never happened in real life and was only thrown in to the movie for comedic relief or the director was a huge fan of Pretty Woman. Selena has just been nominated for her first Grammy and takes her entourage to Los Angeles to go shopping. When you think of Grammys and buying a dress for the event, where is the first place you would go? Probably NOT the mall....but that is where she and her sister (or a friend...I can't remember who was with her) go. What the hell? The freakin' mall? To buy a dress for the Grammys? Ridiculous. They do find a higher-end store because when Selena is looking at a dress, a saleswoman passes by and she says, "Excuse me, how much for this dress?" and the saleswoman sniffs and says, "More than you can afford. It's $700." Obviously she was being racist to this young Latina woman. Well, being that this is Los Angeles and Selena is popular with Mexican-Americans and L.A. is full of them (imagine that!), a Hispanic custodian sees Selena go into the dressing room and he starts passing the word on and soon all the Hispanic people who work at the mall are coming to that store and crowding around. The white, 40-ish saleswoman is really confused and has no idea what's going on. Selena has a very Vivian Ward moment where she tells the saleswoman, "I won't be needing that dress...but thanks." In the end, she chose a beautiful dress for the Grammys that did NOT look like it came from the damn mall!
For anyone watching this who wasn't familiar with Selena or her story, they would get very confused by her death scene. They don't actually show it, which I understand, probably out of respect for the family as it had only been two years since her death. But even I was like, "What the hell just happened?" even though I know that Selena was murdered by the woman who ran her fan club. She was appointed the job in 1994. In early 1995, Selena's father began receiving calls from people who never got their stuff. I would always see information about fan clubs in my CD booklets, but I never joined any so I have no idea what it all entailed. Do fan clubs still exist even? I honestly have no idea. He did an investigation and discovered that she had embezzled more than $60,000 from the money fans were sending in to join the fan club and from the fashion line Selena had. Holy crap. I forgot where Mr. Q found her, but didn't they do a background check on this woman? When Selena goes to confront her, this is when she was killed. I guess the woman was scared and she didn't want Selena to blab and go to the police....so shooting someone will make it all better. If you think you're going to get some time for embezzling, I'm pretty sure you're gonna get some hard time for murder! Idiot. Hope she's enjoying her time in prison! And it's just really sad being that Selena was only 23 and had a bright future ahead of her as a rising star with her first English-language album just being released a few months later after her death. I remember "Dreaming Of You" and "I Could Fall in Love" being played all over the radio during that time.
In the movie, they show a bunch of cop cars at the motel where Selena went to talk to her murderer. Then you see her death being announced on TV and her family at the hospital looking very crushed and devastated. She was still alive after she was shot and was rushed to the hospital, but they couldn't save her. The part that made me really tear up was the end when they played "Dreaming of You" (of course!) and showed images of the real Selena from her various moments in life and footage of people mourning her death and placing flowers and cards as memorials.
And because the text doesn't do it any justice, here's the audio form of my favorite line from my favorite Selena song. Beautiful!