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The Comedy-Drama That Saved Jennifer Lopez's Failing Career

Jennifer Lopez has had one of the most prolific careers in both Hollywood and music, with her fair share of highs and lows. The star first rose to prominence when she appeared as pop sensation Selena in the 1997 film of the same name. With a successful music career in tow that has nabbed her two Grammy nominations, Lopez dominated the screen and radio for a majority of the 2000s. Consider her appearances in "Out of Sight," "The Cell," and "Maid in Manhattan." To date, the actress has brought home nearly $2 billion at the box office as a lead star (via The Numbers), making her one of the most profitable stars of her generation. However, a closer look at the receipts shows that her stock began to dwindle in the early 2010s.

Lopez headlined critically panned films like "The Back-Up Plan," "What To Expect When You're Expecting," and "The Boy Next Door," three films that sport Rotten Tomatoes scores of less than 25%. Romantic comedies have mostly been Lopez's bread and butter, though the star has shown promise as a dramatic thespian. In his review of "The Boy Next Door," Donald Clarke of The Irish Times argued that "Lopez is not a bad actress and [...] has rare old-school movie-star charisma," but her issue lies in picking less than stellar scripts.

Lopez might have taken Clarke's advice to heart, as her acting career has received solid momentum in the last few years, thanks to a critically-acclaimed comedy-drama. 

Hustlers changed Jennifer Lopez's acting trajectory

After appearing in the romantic comedy "Second Act," Jennifer Lopez decided to go back to her early drama roots with "Hustlers." Based on Jessica Pressler's article "The Hustlers at Scores," the film follows a series of New York City strippers who drug patrons and steal their money. Lopez stars as Ramona Vega, a dancer who guides the newbie Dorothy (Constance Wu). The film went on to receive critical acclaim, holding a whopping 87% on Rotten Tomatoes, making it the star's third-highest-rated film on the platform. 

For her role as the "mother-figure" of the strippers, Lopez received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actress. After overwhelmingly positive reviews, Oscar buzz began to manifest. But the nomination never came, with Lopez describing the situation as "a little sad because there was a lot of buildup to it" while speaking with Oprah (via The Hollywood Reporter). It's hard not to feel disappointed for Lopez, who considers herself an underdog. The star was personally invested in the film, producing it with her production company Nuyorican. To fully step into the role of Ramona, the actress spent months training how to pole dance to deliver an authentic performance, going so far as to install portable poles at each of her residences (via Oprah Daily).

While she didn't receive Oscar gold for "Hustlers," the film quickly changed the perception around Lopez's trajectory as an actress. The actress has since gone on to star in the positively-reviewed "Marry Me," which remains one of Peacock's most popular films (via Variety).