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On March 21, 1997, Warner Bros. brought the story of Selena Quintanilla Perez to the big screen with Jennifer Lopez in the title role. The Hollywood Reporter’s original review of Selena is below.
Selena was on the verge of crossing over to a mid-American audience just as her life ended. With this film, she will possibly make the leap posthumously, a jump she was not able to realize during her lifetime.
Certain to win a following among her Mexican-American fans, Selena will also touch the hearts of those who appreciate a film about making it in America. Warner Bros.’ challenge with this finely made film will be to reach an audience that, at her death, had never heard of Selena.
Writer-director Gregory Nava has distilled Selena’s short lifetime into a somewhat standard movie framework, but that is not to diminish her short, meteoric life of the decency of this work.
This is a film about dreams, and we are taken inside Selena Quintanilla Perez’s short lifetime and her desire to make it as a major American singer and entertainer. Her dream was fueled vicariously by her father (Edward James Olmos), whose own dreams were quashed when he was caught between Mexican-Americans who resented his infatuation with rock ‘n’ roll and whites who resented Mexican-Americans.
In this intelligent, reverential film, writer-director Nava has portrayed Selena’s essence: We see her rise from a little girl with a flair for performance to a mature singer-performer who seized stardom and was not intimidated by it. Best, we see her overcoming cultural prejudices.
What makes this movie work is Jennifer Lopez’s electric performance as Selena, capturing the charismatic aspects of Selena’s stage persona and the essence of her maturity as a growing woman. Olmos is particularly powerful as her ambitious father; he conveys both the strength of determination as well as the underside to ambition. — Duane Byrge, originally published on March 21, 1997
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