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After watching Selena it’s hard not to like the “Tejano” singer.

I went to the movie knowing very little about Selena’s music. I even anticipated that I might not like it very well, because there are types of Tex-Mex music that I can’t stand (e.g., norteño music, the Mexican version of polka). I was relieved that Selena didn’t do polka, but I still don’t think I’d go buy her albums. Her music just doesn’t appeal to me.

Luckily, the movie doesn’t require that you love — or even like — Selena’s music. The movie focuses enough on the characters and the story that even non-fans can enjoy it. I did.

Selena was a pop music singer. She rose to fame singing Tex-Mex songs in Spanish and she was just making progress as a crossover singer — crossing over to mainstream pop in English — when she was gunned down at age 23, ironically, by the president of her fan club.

Selena tells the story both of Selena (Jennifer Lopez) and of her father/manager Abraham (Edward James Olmos). The movie opens with Selena’s last big concert in the Houston Astrodome. Her opening number is a medley starting with “I Will Survive,” a bit of heavy-handed irony that could have been overplayed, but which ends up working rather well.

The movie then flashes back to her father’s early stint in music, before Selena was born. Abraham’s doo-wop group is pretty good, but can’t get a gig anywhere because racist Anglos won’t hire a group of Mexicans and Mexicans don’t want to listen to doo-wop. This introduces the movie’s theme of the dual expectations Mexican-Americans face.

The movie jumps forward several years, to when Selena is just 9. Abraham discovers that music runs in the Quintanilla family like Mexican blood. Little Selena proves to have the same love of, and more talent for, music than he has. Her voice and interest in music inspire him to buy a vanload of instruments for his whole family. After a rocky start, they begin to sound pretty good together. They stick together through it all and move on to the big time.

Though the subject herself isn’t that interesting to me, I like the story and the characters in Selena.

Selena is a rags-to-riches story, but it shuns the extremes common to movies of this sort. Selena was not dirt-poor as a child. Her father was difficult at times, but he was not portrayed as an inhuman monster. He pushed the kids to practice, but he didn’t crack the whip. He disapproved of Selena’s boyfriend, but he knew when he was overreacting and was able to apologize. There were obstacles and conflicts, but none of them were blown out of proportion.

Also, though Selena is murdered in the end, the movie manages to be a triumphal story and not a tragedy. Her death is tragic, but the tone of the movie is gracious and joyful, not bitter and sad. Come to think of it, that’s probably the better way to be remembered. It is more generous, more healthful, to celebrate a person’s life than to brood over their death.

The characters in Selena are well developed and likeable. Abraham, as I mentioned, is not presented as an ogre. He is stern, but he loves his kids as most fathers do, and his family always comes first.

Jon Seda plays Chris, Selena’s boyfriend, guitarist, and husband with quiet, shy, downcast eyes in spite of his heavy metal tendencies. When the time comes for him to say “I love you,” it’s not just because the script calls for it; it’s because Chris and Selena have become best friends.

Lopez shines as Selena who is always cheerful and seems to have a true love for life. When a boy climbs on stage and starts dancing with her, she stops the security guard from removing him. Soon she is dancing with a stageful of smiling children. When she sticks up for Chris, it is not an act of defiance to her father, it is truly defense of her best friend.

The movie has its shortcomings. Nava and editor Nancy Richardson introduced a motif of the moon that doesn’t play well. A split-screen effect is used occasionally that doesn’t play well and is distracting. Worst of all, the ending is some sort of jump to reality; real-life mourners are intercut with footage of the real-life Selena. This sequence brought to mind the coda of Schindler’s List and the comparison left a bad taste in my mouth.

Still, the movie is worth seeing, even if you don’t like the music. It’s a shame that the movie came out only two years after Selena’s death because it seems like the movie is carefully targeted at just her fans and mourners. I wonder if a greater distance might have made her story more universal and given this fine movie a broader audience.

  • ana: selena i miss you alot i wish you would of come back i am so sad because you died and i wanted to now you.

    by:ana lopez your fan for ever January 8, 2006 reply
  • Michael Lopez: I agree somewhat with this review. And I totally agree that it was a shame that this movie was made ONLY 2 years after her death! Grergory Nava is a terrible movie writer. He missed almost all the important facts about Selena's life.Any true fan can recognize that. January 9, 2006 reply
  • Hillary Dewey: I like totally agree with Michael Lopez on this comment I mean I may be a white girl but I sure no more than Nava about Selena. February 13, 2006 reply
  • Troy Norm: I can;t believe they chose Jennifer zlopez to play the very beautiful, Selena! I mean what's up with that! February 13, 2006 reply
  • Malaysia: I am so sorry that Selena died she was my idol Why did you have to kill her Yolana!!!! Why!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And I also have to disagree with you troy+cindy Jennifer lopez didn't try to steal SELENA'S part She couldn't do it if she tried. April 25, 2006 reply
  • Bella Smith: I love selena, and jlo. i think that they are a wonderful role model for kids May 3, 2006 reply
  • Amber: i use to love when i was younger to listen to selena's music...i was devastated to hear she had died and i was only two and i remember watching the news when they declared selena's death...i am very... well i can't say how sad i am because i just can't imagine what her family felt...i always wanted to sing with selena...the first time i sang was when i listened to her music...i always wanted to say i am sorry to her family... August 11, 2006 reply
  • mariya: i cant believe that selena died thats sad i wanted to get to know her and become friends she a nice person and lopez was okay playing as that movie but the only thing that wasnt okay is selena's death but i wonder how my family felt but i know i truely miss selena i do not like yolanda for doing this if she was gonna shoot somebody i know this is mean but she should of shot herself not you beautiful selena she is never forgottn selena forever 1971-1995 i miss you selena October 11, 2006 reply
  • gaby: i really wanted to meet selena when ever i see her movie i don't know what happens that i want to cry iam still a fan of her brother a.b. i really like both i like her song dreaming of you i like alot i like como la flor and much other songs

    selena might be dead but she is steal in our hearts!

    she stills lives in our hearts in our mind!

    she is the best! October 17, 2006 reply
  • autumn pack: why was yolanda so mad that she had to shoot selena i mean yolanda is so stupid and i agree with gaby selena might be dead but shes still in our hearts

    love ya selena!!! January 17, 2007 reply
  • Gabby: I agree with most of this review, but a few Fan comments I do not agree with..JLO did a fantastic job portraying Selena. I do not see where she tried to do anything except play Selena and do the part justice which she did...I had never heard of Selena until after her death and when I saw the movie I was hooked (I now own a few of Selenas cds and none of JLO's)..I am sure Selena was looking down at JLO during the making of this movie and smiling her brilliant beautiful smile..Selena was such a kind person I can't imagine she would approve of her Fans knocking anyone..give JLO her due she did a great job with this movie..I agree alot was left out, but JLO did a great job with what she had to work with...Selena you will be remembered forever!! January 22, 2007 reply
  • cindy lopez: I just want 2 say just a little words cause I miss selena .well here it is "me 2 jlo play selena cause she just wanted everone 2 be happy like all of u people" ya yolanda is a b.... and she s... 2 "
    i miss u selena 4 ever n ever in my heart February 11, 2007 reply
  • tricey: I agree with gabby I never heard of selena till I found out that my cousin was obsessed with her and I watched the movie and fell in love with her music and jlo did a wonderful job portaying selena it made me cry and the director did kind of messed up but the virgil for selena was beautiful she lives through our heart I love the song dreamin of you selena her death the trial made me want to pursue my dream as a lawyer selena we love you I love you always and forever February 16, 2007 reply
  • Dawn Barrett: I just bought Selena's movie a short while back and I watch it every day except for the end... I am 41 and from Indiana and I just really never thought of her that much until I watched the movie. I know listen to her music all the time and only wish she could have done more music for us!! I love her song Dreaming Of You it was out in 1995 when I met my husband and I always thought of him when I heard that song. I will miss you Selena!
    Your Friend,
    Dawn~ February 23, 2007 reply
  • katie: i really so cry and sad...
    we loved selena!
    i saw selena's movie...
    so if you will hit me up my AIM "kiloveyoukm123"...i want to say to you about sorry...i will cry for selena forever! we love selena
    katie... February 24, 2007 reply
  • Sabrina: after wathing all her movies i would wacth then over and sing with selena.selena is and was the best singer in the world. i am 10 but i love all of her cds.selena died 1 year before i was born. i wish i could of meeten her.i still pray for her to be a singer in heaven!!!! February 26, 2007 reply
  • gabby: i love sabrina she was my role model but now i have a new one.after watching her movie i start to cry and i now most of her songs why did they have to kill her she was nice i miss her lol cry drop see ya March 15, 2007 reply
  • cassidy hunter: when i watch the movie selena i cry all the time she was realy my idol i wanna follow in her footsteps as a tejano singer but i'll never be as good as her March 26, 2007 reply
  • aja: wow...its been 12 yrs and i still cant believe that shes gone. she was a great singer and jlo did a great job portraying her in the movie. it still brings tears to my eyes when i watch it. r.i.p selena quintanilla perez...tejano angel March 29, 2007 reply
  • Heaven: I really miss Selena. People say I look like her and Jlo. Selena was the best out of all my idols. I'm only 10, but I still care about Selena. I liked Yolana UNTIL SHE KILLED SELENA my # 1 chica.If Selena was still alive, she would of been my mom's age that's a great thang. So you are in me my name is heave, lol I trust you, and sing to me! luv ya, miss ya! April 5, 2007 reply
  • Ashlyn: I miss you very much..I love your music.. You are 1 of the best tejano singers.. well magic city is pretty good to but I really love your music when i watch your movie (which is like every day) I cry because I wanna know you.. You seem soo nice and friendly and I just wish that I could know you.. We could have been friends.. Im latino to.. I wish you could have came back instead of dieing and they need to put yolanda in PRIZON FOREVER.. gurl i wanna know you and your family I have soooo much more to say but i have to go bye bye!!
    LOVE ALWAYZ ASHLYN April 23, 2007 reply
  • Romario: SELENA!!! I miss you.Selena was the Queen of TEX MEX!!!! I think JLO is a very imotal person.can you bealive shes breking up with Mark Anthany!!SLENA was very fathfal to her husband April 24, 2007 reply
  • shana: selena we miss u so much and i love ur music all of them were and still r beautiful i expesially love dreaming of u and don't 4 get we all miss u.u r a legend 4 ever and 4 always. and u died a day after my birthday. love always 1 of ur biggest fans shana May 6, 2007 reply
  • shanell martin: selena,you inspired me alot.you are like a role model to me. when I here your music It makes me want to cry because I miss you so much. It hurted me so bad when I heard about your death. I wish you were still alive to see me grow up to be a woderful singer like you. I wanted you to know that as a friend I love and care about you.Im still dreamen of you.and if I could I'd visit you.your songs inspired me to sing. I never knew I could sing until Iheard you.now I sing often and its my favorite thing to do. at my school Roll Hill in cincinnati ohio,we are having a talent show.Im singing dreamen of you because its my favorite song in the whole wide world.Im missing you always and even though Im an african american that does not stop me from wanting to be like you.R.I.P SELENA.

    P.S,you and chris make a cute couple. May 13, 2007 reply
  • Briana Kiesling: I love Selena she is an amazing person and singer. I wish that I could have met her and her family should know that they are lucky to have had her in their lives. I just want to wish the family of Selena well but know that even though she is
    gone her music still lives on in them and i am glad that they raised her the way they did. I just want to say Im sorry about her death but she was the most amazing young singer i know off. much love and prayers to her family.... May 18, 2007 reply
  • vanessa: i love selena so much and rael sad and she kill her ya she did/it i am not happy ok May 30, 2007 reply
  • andrea carino: well when i found out that she died i was sad
    June 13, 2007 reply
  • justin: selena i totaly miss u died and on the movie i was crying please i wish u were alive i wanted to meet u July 8, 2007 reply
  • Shnieka Collier: I really loved Selena. She was one of my favorite in still is. I watch her movie all the time. But it hurted my heart when i found out she had died. I really miss her.
    September 28, 2007 reply
  • Milagros: i relly miss you i wated to meet you.... im already crying if you hear me we all miss you! Well bye! October 5, 2007 reply
  • annie: hey selena i miss you i wish you would come back October 22, 2007 reply
  • alicia: i miss you selena i wish you would come back
    if you were here i would have to say there wouldnt be so much hate in the worl right know i miss you i love you and i hope i will see you December 28, 2007 reply
  • Sashah: Selena was such a great role model for all of us girls and it will be for many years to come.She had alot of talent its to bad she died.She was so young and had a future ahead of her.I saw the movie and started to cry.I will ~n~ forever look up to Selena.

    Miss u Selena.Muaah!!!

    1 day I'll see u in Heaven January 2, 2008 reply
  • vanessa ledezma: hey selena i miss you so much i wish you could come back and sing your heart out missing you selena! January 3, 2008 reply
  • MEREDITH Y MILAGROS: slena we miss you alot and we hope you are in a safe place and i hope all your fans still like you and miss you alot. March 3, 2008 reply
  • anagrisel perez: we miss and love you dearly, someday we will met in heaven. March 19, 2008 reply
  • emily: i love you selena you are the best i love your sogs i wish u are a live you i ben is your cont short the one when u sigs a bebin bebin i was the best i love your family i am priet of your family from cries is sida i was in your wennidind your dad is cool and your mom to cris got me a priet is was a selena bracit and a nekls i hate your frienfd she kill you if you camr to my driethday you code play with me ok i love u love emily March 26, 2008 reply
  • regina: I love selena's songs an still do i wish she was still alive so that young girls would know how wonderful she was i mean is!!!! i love you selena an i hope to see you again soon!!!!!! April 24, 2008 reply
  • jerry: loved selena she will be missed so much. May 13, 2008 reply
  • Yulia: Selena, I really love you. You were such a sweet and beautiful young lady. No one can replace you. I loved all your songs; especially Como la Flor, Si Una Vez and Amor Prohibido.You are such a talented young lady. I am glad God sent you to be one of the best artists in the world. I really miss you and wish I met you once. I was only five years old when I heard of this tragic news. But, I always watch your videos on you tube and have copies of your music.Your voice always makes my day happy. I really, really love you and miss you! June 15, 2008 reply
  • Heidie: Hi,Selena i love your voice.Your one of favorite singers!whoever shot u should regret what they did.I have your movie and every time I watch it I cry but you are in a better place.someday I will meet you in heaven.I love you Selena very very much.Please say hi to Jasen,my mawmaw Kib,and my pawpaw Kib for me?I love you Selena! July 24, 2008 reply
  • pamel: i miss you selena i like your song.dreaming of you. i love you October 27, 2008 reply
  • sarita: selena te amo y tu musica fue muy fantastica y tu bonita y talentosa pero yo cantar y bailar . November 16, 2008 reply
  • Jazmin: we watched Selena in Spanish this year in school, and I started crying soooo bad at the end, and even the guys in my class teared up... RIP, Selena! March 9, 2009 reply
  • Edna: even though i was only 2 wen she died my mom would always put her cd's on and i cry everytime i c the movie jlo did great in da movie so all u haterz stfu nd yolanda needs to rot in hell shes eligable for parol in 2025 or somethin nd f she gets out ill shoot her f***** face off!!
    rip selena!!! we all miss you and u a big inspiration to everyone May 30, 2009 reply