Before Hollywood thrived on superheroes, end credit sequences, and Easter eggs, a sizable segment of movie fans anticipated the next Meg Ryan, Julia Roberts or Jennifer Lopez romantic comedy. It was a genre of movies that always had its own checklist of clichés attached to them that started with unlikely meet-cutes, passionate arguments (often in the rain), and miscommunications to trudge over to reach that sweet, sweet happy ending – but it was a lovable formula that created a number of hits and modern classics.
The golden age of rom-coms may have come and gone, with the most celebrated love stories nowadays often looking to challenge its viewers with clever commentary rather than wrap them in soft blanket. Enter Kat Coiro’s Marry Me. It’s a 2022 J-Lo romantic comedy that feels plucked from the rom-com collection of yesteryear.
Based on Bobby Crosby’s 2010 graphic novel of the same name, Kat Coiro’s Marry Me establishes Jennifer Lopez’s Kat Valdez as a character who is very much aligned with the actress’ brand as an iconic pop singer who has millions of adoring fans. Kat’s relationship status is also heavily covered by the media, with Colombian singer Maluma taking on the role of the star’s super-famous partner, Bastian. The movie starts with the famous duo’s plan to have a super public wedding in front of a massive live audience – the event also set to be broadcast around the world, including song-and-dance numbers and a performance of their chart-topping single aptly called “Marry Me.”
However, just as Kat, in her designer wedding dress, is being raised into the stage, she learns that Bastian has been cheating on her with her assistant.
Owen Wilson’s Charlie Gilbert is an attendee at the concert, despite not knowing any of Kat Valdez’s hit songs. A middle school math teacher who’s biggest concern is getting his mathletes, the “Pi-thons,” to competition and keeping the peace with his pre-teen daughter, he attends the concert with a co-worker and just so happens to be holding up a sign that reads “Marry Me.” In Kat’s public moment of desperation, with thousands of people watching as she processes her betrayal in real time, she decides to invite Wilson’s Charlie up on stage to say “I do” with her. And he does…
Marry Me starts with a thin setup and then catches audiences off guard with its cute charm.
From it’s opening sequence, Marry Me is engaging, but not exactly promising. Why is a pop star choosing this random man from a crowd? Why is this random man from a crowd taking on the pressure of the spotlight? It’s the kind of rom-com setup to scoff at as it feels like it emulates the energy of some sort of fan fiction plotline.
It remains a rough setup to go along with when Kat and Charlie decide to stay married and take part in awkward press conferences and a TikTok live bowling date – with J-Lo basically being J-Lo in between, juicing smoothies and doing yoga as publicists around her constantly talk about social media numbers.
But somewhere, somehow along the way, Marry Me suddenly may find you catching butterflies for its love story.
The flair of Marry Me is how it takes you along the ride to get to know its characters as the relationship grows between Kat and Charlie. There’s an inherent skepticism about a pair that got married at first sight in front of the world (you’d think some publicist would charge between them), but Kat Coiro’s direction understands this and uses it to its advantage.
Yes, as the formulaic romantic comedy goes, there’s a familiarity to the type of journey it’s odd couple is meant to go on. But Marry Me has that particular secret sauce that somehow gets us to buy into these two creating something everlasting, feeling like a film pulled down from one’s nostalgic romantic comedy Blu-ray library where it is stored next to The Wedding Planner and Two Weeks Notice.
You’d never guess Jennifer Lopez and Owen Wilson as co-stars, and that’s kind of why it works.
Jennifer Lopez and Owen Wilson last worked together back in 1997 in the adventure horror film Anaconda. Obviously, that is very different from being part of a sweeping romance. Upon viewing the film, you realize Lopez and Wilson not being your typical pairing is what works about it. You remember that a commonality between these two are that they both know how to establish electric chemistry, even amidst some some dumb lines and outlandish concepts. The combination of this pair, being not only different talents, but portraying polar opposites who are brought together, is the key ingredient that grounds Marry Me.
Jennifer Lopez is very much in her comfort zone, sometimes performing scenes that could very well be part of her own routine and everyday life. Because we know Lopez to be such a massive name, it is interesting to imagine how the human elements of her life in between the crowd and paparazzi come into play. J-Lo brought her experiences to the script of the film, and it’s an interesting avenue for the star to go down for the most part.
Owen Wilson works as the movie’s every man, playing at an awkward dad energy that leans into the lovable. And Sarah Silverman and Michelle Buteau tap into their best friend roles in a way that’s fun to watch and a throwback to the genre’s most iconic features.
At the same time, there’s a glossiness and commercialness to Marry Me where it can come off as inorganic. There are loads of clear brand endorsements throughout the film, and moments for J-Lo to belt out her original songs that can be hit or miss when it comes to serving the story or feeling like a two-hour long J-Lo commercial. Marry Me is a movie about letting one’s guard down from fame and being more genuine, yet it never ventures out of what you’d expect from it or takes its characters off the beaten path. What makes up for this is the tension Kat Coiro builds that creates a fun experience that leads to investment into the worlds of the romantic leads colliding.
All and all, Marry Me isn’t an all-time great romantic comedy, but it is one that taps into that dynamic allure that made the genre great during its golden age. The movie gets you to root for its couple against all odds and in that sense it achieves the rare feeling of discovering an early 00s rom-com lost in time.