Following in the footsteps of La Bamba comes another biographical film about a musical artist who was destined for superstardom, but had it taken away unfortunately. Just like in La Bamba, this film also features a Mexican musician who was about to make it big. Directed by Gregory Nava, the 1997 biographical film Selena stars Jennifer Lopez, Edward James Olmos, Constance Marie, Jon Seda, & Lupe Ontiveros. This film takes place around 1961-1995 in locations such as California, Texas, & Mexico.
The film opens with Selena (played by Jennifer Lopez) getting ready to do a concert at the Houston Astrodome, one that would end up ultimately being her final concert, unfortunately. The film then flashes back to 1961 where Selena’s father, Abraham (played by Edward James Olmos) is struggling to make it with his band, “The Dinos.” Fast-forward to 1981 where Abraham wants to try it again this time with his daughter, Selena, singing. Selena’s mother, Marcella (played by Constance Marie), teaches her dance moves like how to move her hips. Eight years later in 1989, they decide to hire a new guitarist, Chris Perez (played by Jon Seda). Chris & 18-year-old Selena start a relationship, much to Abraham’s chagrin. Chris & Selena eventually get married anyway. By this time, Selena is starting to heat up as she just won a Grammy for her album, “Selena Live”. Selena’s friend, Yolanda (played by Lupe Ontiveros), would become President of the Selena fan club. When Selena finds out that Yolanda was stealing money from the fan club, Selena confronts Yolanda at a motel. Unfortunately, things didn’t go the way Selena had hoped.
One aspect of the filmmaking, which I thought was great, was the acting. As a matter of fact, there are two acting performances in this film, which come to mind. The first & the obvious would be from a then unknown actress named Jennifer Lopez. She literally had big shoes to fill as she was not only stepping into the role of a singer who was about to make it big, but she also had to prove herself as an actress as almost nobody knew who Jennifer Lopez was. As a matter of fact, some people initially objected to Lopez being cast to portray Selena since Lopez is a Puerto Rican native who grew up in the Bronx playing a Mexican artist. Fortunately, Lopez silenced those critics once this film came out. I think that she did a phenomenal performance not only portraying Selena but also representing the Quintanilla family considering that this was her breakout performance. My only complaint is I wish that she had done her own singing as opposed to lip singing to Selena’s voice. After all, Joaquin Phoenix & Reese Witherspoon both did their own singing in Walk the Line & not only did it work, but it also earned Joaquin an Academy Award nomination & Reese a win. Jamal Woolard also did his own rapping in Notorious. Then again, Lou Diamond Phillips did lip sing to Los Lobos in La Bamba & it worked well in that film. The other acting performance, which I thought was excellent, was Edward James Olmos as Selena’s father, Abraham. Edward James Olmos gives everything in this performance. For example, once he finds out about Chris trashing the motel room, he fires him. I felt that he really cared for his daughter & didn’t want her to be with that kind of guy.
The other aspect of the filmmaking, which I thought worked well not only in this film, but also in Notorious as well, was the direction they chose to take this film. I liked how they began the film by briefly showing the end & then giving us the back-story by showing Selena growing up as a little girl as opposed to just going straight to her as an adult. I felt it worked well because it shows us how she grew up before she became famous. It also shows that when you look into the stars & dream, dreams really do come true.
My overall recommendation about this film is that I was blown away by how good it was. I absolutely loved it & recommend it for any fan that loved Selena. I would also recommend this film to any fan of Jennifer Lopez, as this film is probably what made her interested in starting her own singing career. Speaking of biographical films about famous musical artists who were taken away from us too soon (Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper, & Ritchie Valens in La Bamba, Selena in Selena, & Christopher Wallace/Biggie Smalls/The Notorious B.I.G. in Notorious), I think that Hollywood needs to make two more. The first one should be about the late Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes & her group, TLC. I think people deserve to see the kind of person Lisa Lopes really was when she wasn’t “Left Eye” in TLC & when she wasn’t on camera. In fact, since she signed with Death/Tha Row Records under the name “N.I.N.A” prior to her death, they can cast the same guy who played Suge Knight in Notorious to once again play him. The other film, which I definitely think should be made, should be about the late Aaliyah. She was a flower that was about to bloom & definitely needs to have her story told. I believe that people should how beautiful Aaliyah truly was, both inside & out.