Synopsis: Music superstars Kat Valdez and Bastian are getting married before a global audience of fans. When Kat learns that Bastian has been unfaithful, seconds before her vows, she decides to marry Charlie, a stranger in the crowd, instead.
Stars: Jennifer Lopez, Owen Wilson, Maluma, Chloe Coleman, Sarah Silverman
Director: Kat Corio
Running Length: 112 minutes
TMMM Score: (8/10)
Review: After more than twenty-five years in the movie industry, I think it’s fair to say that multi-hyphenate performer Jennifer Lopez knows what works for her and what doesn’t. Choosing her film roles selectively and with an eye on not just the exposure for her as an actress but as a musician and entertainer, Lopez is a global icon instantly recognizable wherever she goes. Early in her career, she entered the hallowed halls of romantic comedy queendom, scoring a hat trick with 2001’s The Wedding Planner, 2002’s Maid in Manhattan, and 2005’s Monster-in-Law. Though she’s appeared in other popular films and earned good notices before, during, and after these releases, that trio of dependable winners is the most mentioned when speaking of JLo’s film endeavors.
It’s been a while since Lopez had that level of monster genre hit and despite barely missing out on an Oscar nomination for the career-best work in 2019’s Hustlers, other projects (even 2018’s Second Act, which is quite good) haven’t caught major fire. That tide could change with the release of Marry Me, the kind of return to form rom-com fueled by gargantuan charisma and star power that’s been missing in movies for eons. Lopez and co-star Owen Wilson (The Internship) are a refreshing, funny movie couple with effortlessly delightful chemistry. With its Notting Hill-ish flourishes (more on that later), Lopez easily moves from the A list to the A+ list, giving a performance that I was not expecting to be as deep as it turned out to be.
Loosely based on a 2007 graphic novel (!) by Bobby Crosby, Marry Me finds beautiful superstar singer Kat Valdez (Lopez, The Boy Next Door) swept up in the whirlwind of preparations to wed hot heartthrob Bastian (Maluma, Encanto) during a joint concert in front of a worldwide audience and sing their rising pop single, “Marry Me.” Already married and divorced several times, the subject of much public scrutiny, Valdez is convinced (or has she just worked hard to convince herself?) Bastian is the one for her and puts aside her reservations about getting hitched in such a public forum. In the audience are a mild-mannered math teacher and divorced dad, Charlie Gilbert (Wilson), along with his daughter (Chloe Coleman, My Spy) and his colleague Parker (Sarah Silverman, A Million Ways to Die in the West).
When Kat finds out from her manager (John Bradley, Moonfall) right as the vows are to take place that Bastian has betrayed her, she notices the unassuming man in the audience holding a sign emblazoned with the name of the song she’s about to sing. A split-second decision leads to a moment of clarity for the star and a life-changing agreement for the schoolteacher who still owns a flip phone. Married in front of a shocked crowd, Kat and Charlie must get to know one another, and both realize something they never thought possible; there’s a lot left to life and love they can learn from the other. All they have to do is get over their hang-ups. Easier said than done for a pop star with everything and an educator content with the simple life.
It’s impossible not to watch the movie and see the striking parallels to 1999’s Notting Hill, which is, to me, a perfect film. Even in the way the action develops, the narrative beats have a similar feel. While I wouldn’t say Marry Me is overtly copying that earlier film’s success story, it does use that as a blueprint to make the unlikely (and, let’s face it, unbelievable) fairy tale seem that much more plausible. Director Kat Corio and screenwriters Harper Dill, John Rogers, and Tami Sagher pepper the film with enough roadblocks and, strangely, supporting characters working against the best interest of their friends to believably keep the stars ever so slightly in a romantic danger zone. The inevitable third act “break-up,” comes from an internal place, not an external force, something I appreciated seeing because it was in keeping with the movie’s focus on the couple. It sets the stage for a comic cross-country down-to-the-buzzer race to express their feelings.
Filmed in 2019 when Lopez was 50, it’s a grand showcase (but not a “showy” one) for the actress, with full-out singing and dancing to go along with the sharp comic timing she hasn’t fully embraced since her early Wedding Planner days. Also…I’m convinced Marry Me is being released simultaneously on Peacock TV as well as theaters for people who will certainly do what I did and pause it to scream each time Lopez reveals a new outfit. By the time we got to the red sequin number, I was entirely unconscious under the coffee table. Timed right for a Valentine’s Day release, say yes to Marry Me this weekend or any time of year. It’s undoubtedly going to be a new favorite of mine.