Taylor Swift’s ‘no’ and Ben Affleck’s pain: 10 ridiculous moments from Jennifer Lopez’s documentary

Jennifer Lopez in The Greatest Love Story Never Told
Jennifer Lopez in The Greatest Love Story Never Told
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Jennifer Lopez has never been one for quiet entrances, and her return to pop stardom has been an assault on the senses. All the senses. Even senses you didn’t know you possessed.

Her new album, This Is Me Now, and the accompanying “narrative-driven cinematic odyssey” of the same name celebrate the resumption of her romance with Ben Affleck after a 20-year time-out. Much like the original love affair, these undertakings are grand follies. The movie, in particular, is bonkers with bells on, featuring interpretative dance, steampunk CGI, and a scene in which rapper Post Malone, dressed as a sign of the zodiac, chats up Jane Fonda (also dressed as a sign of the zodiac).

How did this get made, many viewers will have wondered. Lopez is on hand with the answer in the form of documentary The Greatest Love Story Never Told. It veers from raw and emotional to absurd. Lopez speaks honestly about the challenges in her life and her struggles with self-esteem, and you can only empathise with her pain.

But the focus on her emotional needs to the exclusion of everything else is ultimately exhausting – for us and also potentially for Ben Affleck, who looks drained throughout. Lopez is a real person who has gone through real trauma – yet seems unaware of the immensity of her privilege or the possibility that other people might have problems of their own. This dichotomy results in a real slog of a documentary. Here are 10 takeaways.

1. Ben Affleck would rather keep his love life private

J-Lo’s husband is flummoxed about the title of her new project. “It’s the greatest love story never told…, and you’re making a record about it. That seems kind of like telling it,” he says, looking uncomfortable discussing his relationship with Lopez on camera. He is even more aghast when he discovers the co-writers of Lopez’s record have been raiding the couple’s old letters and emails for inspiration. “Things that are private I’ve always felt are sacred and special because, in part, they’re private,” says Affleck. “This was an adjustment for me.”

2. Nobody wanted to make This Is Me Now – at first

Shortly before the cameras are due to roll, an unnamed backer drops out of This Is Me Now. In a panic, Lopez and her team shop the idea of a narrative film inspired by her album to various studios and streamers. While Prime Video later acquires the completed movie, initially she receives a chorus of “no-thanks-yous”.

“Every streamer says musical movies don’t sell. Beyoncé didn’t sell, Rihanna didn’t sell,” says her manager. “There was no appetite for a musical film based on an album, no matter what the story.” She vows to bankroll it herself – despite her husband’s skepticism. “Making a movie with your own money is the most famous cardinal sin in Hollywood,” Affleck grumbles.

3. Taylor Swift refused to be in it

This Is Me Now is crammed with celebrity cameos – including Jane Fonda, Post Malone, comedian Trevor Noah, and pop star Kim Petras. But just as significant are the stars who declined to participate. Ariana Grande was unavailable – as was Jason Momoa. Taylor Swift’s camp, meanwhile, didn’t even bother with the pretence of her being too busy and – according to Lopez – replied with a straight “no”. Oof, shake that one off, J.Lo.

Jennifer Lopez in This Is Me Now
Jennifer Lopez in This Is Me Now

4. Lopez has been in unsavoury relationships in the past

This Is Me Now, film and movie, are about Lopez learning to love herself and no longer trying to please the men in her life (she has been married four times). She talks about her romantic ups and downs and reveals that she has been to some dark places. “I’ve never been in a relationship where I got beat up, thank God,” she says. “I’ve definitely been manhandled and hit – a couple of other unsavoury things.”

5. Jane Fonda tells it like it is

Fonda and Lopez met making Monster-In-Law in 2005 and remain close. So close Fonda doesn’t mince words discussing the resumption of the Bennifer romance. “I feel invested in you and Ben,” she says. “I really want this to work –  it feels too much like you’re trying to prove something instead of living it. Every other photograph is the two of you kissing, the two of you hugging.” At the end of the line, Lopez smiles but doesn’t know how to respond.

Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez in February 2024
Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez in February 2024 - Getty

6. Lopez, believe it or not, has self-esteem issues

Growing up in the Bronx, Lopez felt overlooked by her parents. Her father, a computer technician at an insurance company, worked nights and slept all day. Her mother was a “narcissist” who had to be the life and soul of the party – leaving her daughter, the middle of three girls, feeling the spotlight was being snatched constantly from her. “I was always looking for someone to make me feel loved,” Lopez. “I started running track [and field] and winning medals. Hoping someone would love me.”

7. Few of those in the making of This Is Me Now had any idea what the project was about

“It was a little weird, the zodiac coming to life,” says astrophysicist  Neil deGrasse Tyson, who plays one of the zodiac gods – alongside Post Malone and Kim Petras (but not Taylor Swift) .”People really think the universe gives a s___ about them? Okay…” Post Malone is equally baffled. “I think I get it,” he says – clearly not getting it.

8. Lopez likes to pad around her house in her tracksuit

When the cameras aren’t rolling, Lopez and Affleck enjoy their slobbing-out time just like every other middle-aged couple who barely have the energy to get off the couch. The Greatest Love Story Never Told is at its most charming when it’s just the two of them panned out, unshaven and without make-up. “You’re used to seeing me like a little old lady at home,” says J-Lo, though Affleck feels she’s troweling on the “I’m just like everybody else” shtick a bit. “We’re not going for the ‘I’m not pretty’ and all this bull___,” he says.

9. Lopez’s “Jenny from the Block” persona is just a performance

Lopez is vulnerable throughout the film and breaks down in tears when Affleck is out of town, and she is struggling with loneliness – and the pressures of her as a yet unfinished movie. “You always feel you’re not good enough,” she sobs. “You’re not good enough in the movie, not good enough as a partner, as a mother.”

Lopez and Affleck on the set of Jenny from the Block in 2002
Lopez and Affleck on the set of Jenny from the Block in 2002 - Bauer-Griffin

10. There won’t be a Gigli Part Two

For someone whose career has often hinted at a honking lack of self-awareness, Lopez comes across as down-to-earth and in on the joke. When a production crew member buttonholes her and Affleck, asking if they are going to make another movie together, they look traumatised. “The last one was Gigli,” says the well-wisher, referring to their 2003 disaster. “That’s why we haven’t done one since,” says Lopez while Affleck cringes.

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