New York City -- Jennifer Lopez knows how to take a punch. She suffers blows from the tabloids on an almost daily basis, her body is the butt of jokes (see, there you go), and in her latest film, Enough, she gets pummelled by an abusive husband. The difference between her real life and the movies is that in her movies Lopez fights back.
Enough (see review, page 76) casts her in the role of Slim, a restaurant server who falls in love with the seemingly charming Mitch (Billy Campbell). But Mitch turns out to be a creep. He cheats on her, and when she confronts him, he hits her.
Slim knows at that moment that she has to get out of the relationship, whereupon the movie spirals into thriller mode. She takes all the necessary steps to protect herself and her daughter, but realizes Mitch will only be satisfied when she's dead. That's when Slim decides to go head-to-head with her abuser.
"I've never been in a relationship where I've been physically abused, but I've been in relationships where I thought to myself, "This is not for me, I really don't like the way this is going,'" says Lopez, holding court at the Essex House Hotel in New York.
"But I stayed and tried to make it work, and I got caught up in the cycle, the love/hate thing. Everyone's gone through things like that in their life. People will relate to Enough, saying, "God, I've been there, I've done that and that and that.'"
This is the third time I've interviewed J-Lo. I don't know why my media colleagues take such delight in portraying her as a self-involved diva -- La Lopez, they call her. They like to hammer away at her past relationship missteps (remember Lopez in a limo with Puff Daddy and a stolen gun?), claiming her dating choices have hurt her reputation as much as that cut-down-to-here-and-up-to-there Grammy dress.
Yet I've never seen Lopez give attitude. This time, she walks into the room and notices that a journalist she met months ago has shaved off his moustache. He stares at her open-mouthed and tells her some of his friends haven't even noticed. The girl pays attention.
"The diva thing, the media run with it," says Lopez. "The reason Ben Affleck took out that ad about me in Variety telling everyone that I'm professional and easy to work with was because there are so many misconceptions. It's nice to have that out there in the world from somebody who actually knows what it's like, because he suffers the same fate."
Enough, directed by Michael Apted (Coal Miner's Daughter, Gorillas In The Mist, Nell), is a crowd-pleasing thriller that doesn't pretend to be anything more. There are no deep insights into the issue of violence against women. But it does enter the pantheon of women's revenge film (see sidebar, this page), and prompts some interesting questions. Should movies encourage women to act just as stupidly and violently as men? Are women held to a higher standard, and if they are, is that sexist?
Lopez thinks the film's message is very clear.
"You can get out of this negative situation -- the power is within you. It's a very simple message, but it's a strong one. In the end, this is a psychological thriller, but there may be people in that situation who can't help but think, "God, I gotta get out. She did it.'"
Enough gives Lopez another chance to play it tough; for a leading lady she's played more than her fair share of aggressive types. She was the confident, gun-wielding FBI agent intertwined with George Clooney in Out Of Sight, and the butchy cop who falls for the phantom-like Jim Caviezel in Angel Eyes. But Enough has been her most demanding role to date.
"It was emotionally tough on me and my husband (Cris Judd). I only took three days off during the filming, but I've made something like 14 movies and had never taken a day off before.
"I've never missed a video shoot. One time I went home from a photo shoot sick, but that's it. This was the first time I thought, "I'm done, I need a break.' I wanted the doctor to write a note saying, "She needs a month off,' and the filmmakers could claim the insurance. But the doctor just said, "Get back to work. You just need to sleep.'"
She needed some first aid, too. She and co-star Billy Campbell endured gruelling physical battles, especially the final fight scene.
"I definitely knew everything I was doing in that scene," says Lopez proudly. "I learned it completely. And it's convincing. I'm a very physical person anyway. I've been athletic since I was eight years old, so that kind of stuff is easy for me. I didn't let the stunt double do much.
"That's the thing about Krav Maga, the martial arts system that Slim uses against Mitch, it levels out the playing field. It doesn't matter how big or strong you are, it's about counterattack, getting out of the way, knowing how to slip a punch, how to come back immediately using anything around you as a weapon."firstname.lastname@example.org
Enough directed by Michael Apted, written by Nicholas Kazan, produced by Irwin Winkler and Rob Cowan, with Jennifer Lopez, Billy Campbell, Juliette Lewis and Tessa Allen. 115 minutes. A Columbia TriStar/Sony Pictures release. Opens Friday (May 24). For venues and times, see First-Run Movies. Rating: NN