A new Jennifer Lopez rom-com just in time for Valentine’s Day? Say yes to Marry Me…
Let’s make this clear right from the jump: if you don’t like romantic comedies and you don’t like J. Lo, Marry Me isn’t going to win you over. The film plays on the audience’s familiarity with a formula perfected by years of Julia Roberts, Meg Ryan and Kate Hudson’s early movies. If that’s not your bag, this film isn’t going to change your mind.
For fans of the genre and for fans of the actress, however, Marry Me is a slam dunk. Not only does it have a premise that naturally intersects with the superstar’s real life persona in a believable and compelling way, there’s genuine fun and chemistry between Lopez and her co-star, Owen Wilson.
Marry Me is a contemporary riff on a classic “opposites attract” premise. The film’s inciting incident is its most ridiculous component: mega pop star Kat Valdez (Lopez) and her fiancé Bastian (real life Colombian singer-songwriter Maluma) are preparing for a joint live broadcast concert and wedding in front of 20M viewers. Just as she’s about to ascend onstage for the vows, Kat discovers that Bastian cheated on her and, in a moment of spontaneity, she randomly plucks square, everyman Charlie Gilbert (Wilson) from the crowd and marries him instead.
It’s evident after the fact that Kat wasn’t thinking clearly, but she’s a frustrated successful businesswoman carting around three failed marriages and a lack of industry recognition as baggage. She’s also tired of being a public joke (Jimmy Fallon shows up several times as himself to mock the fictitious personality in a slightly meaner take on his real life persona). At a press conference shortly after the ceremony, as Kat and Charlie work out their stories in real time, they both make valid points about subverting the traditional notions of courtship, gender roles and fantasy around marriage.
Are they acting bananas by playing pretend and staying together? Absolutely, the film makes it clear that nothing else has worked for Kat and she’s fed up.
Obviously the irony about addressing the marriage fantasy is that the whole film’s premise rests on the idea that an average joe like Charlie – a buttoned-up, no fun math teacher at a primary school – would ever stand a chance with a star like Kat. What works about Marry Me is that the film doesn’t actually care about that; yes, it’s the third act crisis that briefly separates them before they inevitably reconcile, but the vast majority of the film is spent exploring how these two people from very different worlds come to occupy each other’s spaces.
This initially begins with Charlie fitting into Kat’s jam packed schedule of product endorsements, photo shoots and recording sessions, but after the first act, she’s the one breaking out of her rigid routine to teach dance lessons at his mathalon club or chaperone a dance at the school. Marry Me’s screenwriters John Rogers, Tami Sagher and Harper Dill, as well as costume designers Caroline Duncan and Diras Guillart never let the audience forget that Kat is an incredibly wealthy singer: her wardrobe is outrageously expensive and everywhere she goes, normies are bowled over by her looks and talent. The film understands that this is a huge part of its appeal: seeing Kat navigate everyday circumstances (buying a plane ticket; go bowling) carries a “stars: they’re just like us!” vibe, even as she jets off to “specials” in Japan or donates whole racks of Coach bags to charity.
Given the subject matter, it’s nearly impossible to shake off the feeling that we’re simply watching Lopez play a more down to earth, approachable version of herself. As an executive producer on the film, the multi-hyphenate talent has crafted a perfect star vehicle for herself that showcases both her acting and singing. In fact, Marry Me is as much a concert film as it is a romantic comedy.
This is subtly reinforced by the inclusion of cell phone video, social media reactions and B-roll footage that could have easily been shot at a Lopez concert. Director Kat Coiro shoots Kat and Bastian’s performances like music videos or intimate behind-the-scenes footage, not so subtly directing audiences to pick up the soundtrack, packed with potential chart-toppers by Lopez and Maluma.
None of this matters, however, if the film itself doesn’t convincingly sell a romantic fantasy that audiences can buy into. Surprisingly enough Lopez and Wilson have an easy going chemistry that makes the relationship believable and they’re given reasonable back-up by supporting cast members Sarah Silverman and Game of Thrones‘ John Bradley as Charlie’s lesbian co-worker and Kat’s manager, respectively. Add in a reasonable, but not cumbersome, number of rom-com tropes and you have a familiar, comforting rom-com. A last minute race through the airport? Check. Callbacks to cute moments in the low-stakes climax? Check.
Thankfully, Marry Me eschews a bombastic misunderstanding to drive a wedge between Kat and Charlie to set-up its climax. Instead the film merely acknowledges that the pair come from separate worlds…before confirming that their love is too strong to ignore. And it works because in the world of films like this, love is ultimately simple and uncomplicated. And that’s what audiences want.
At its core Marry Me is a fun and breezy rom-com that’s a great showcase for Lopez. For fans of the actress and of the genre, it’s an easy sell. 4/5
Marry Me is in theatres and streaming on Peacock on Feb 11