review for Selena on AllMovie

Selena (1997)
by Lisa Kropiewnicki review

Jennifer Lopez delivers a breakout performance in this biopic that re-teams her with Mi Familia (1995) writer/director Gregory Nava, who continues to explore the Latino-American experience. Nava's engaging script wisely mines his subject's life for humor and conflict, embracing Selena Quintanilla's passion for music, her affair with Chris Perez (John Seda), her tumultuous relationship with her father, Abraham (Edward James Olmos), and the enduring affection of her fans. As director, Nava effectively re-creates his characters' ethnicity without condescension, impressively explores the flip side of life on the road, and in a feat of technical skill, fills a stadium with 35,000 extras to re-create a seminal Houston Astrodome appearance. The pre-"JLo" Lopez is warm and genuine here, foreshadowing her own success as a recording artist while sealing the deal on an acting career that was by no means assured until the one-two punch of this film and the critically successful Out of Sight (1998). Seda is a quiet charmer as the pop star's guitarist and soul mate, while Olmos manages to be both lovable and petulant as the exacting Abraham. At times a hagiographic treatment of her life, a minor fault that can probably be blamed on the real-life Abraham Quintanilla's role as producer, Selena (1997) is nonetheless a satisfying and rich depiction of a talented but too-brief life in music.