Here’s the thing – if rom-coms are not your jam, justifying your reasoning on its propensity for cheesiness and over the top romantic sentiment, then Kat Coiro’s Marry Me is not for you. Trigger warning: this film wraps you in a warm, fuzzy blanket where unrealistic dialogue and sugar-coated grand gestures supersede everything. However, if you accept the genre for what it is despite its formulaic tendencies, there’s fun to be had.
Based on the graphic novel by Bobby Crosby, this modern re-telling of Notting Hill stars Jennifer Lopez as superstar singer Kat Valdez. After discovering her superstar fiancé Bastian (Columbian music star Maluma) has been unfaithful, minutes before tying the knot in front of a global audience, she decides to be spontaneous by marrying a random person in the crowd – Charlie Gilbert (Owen Wilson).
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Marry Me is something of a nostalgic and unapologetic throwback to an era Hollywood doesn’t indulge in anymore. Covered in a commercialised gloss (including an overplayed title track), Coiro’s film doesn’t reinvent the wheel. In a traditional tale as old as time, it understands its assignment, riding that predictability train, with Harper Dill and John Rogers’s screenplay going on the charm offensive at every station. And the film’s harmless enjoyment hinges upon how much you’re willing to suspend all cynical disbelief to root for an unlikely odd couple.
Coiro builds momentum in establishing their unlikelihood. She’s a global superstar, loved from afar by millions of fans around the world. He’s a dedicated maths teacher and a divorcee, raising his young daughter Lou (Chloe Colman). She leads a jet-set lifestyle, committed to contractually obligated appearances. He’s comforted by his simplistic dwellings or taking his pet dog for walks. Her life is connected through social media, with fans peering endlessly through engineered snippets of her glamorised life. He’s old school – a book reading, vinyl record playing, goes to bed by 8pm man who possesses a phone which goes back to a time when smartphones didn’t crave our full attention. The story writes itself! And like a storm in a teacup where their fates collide (and marriage vows are exchanged), they throw themselves into the publicity frenzy. But the real luck of the story is Kat picking someone who has no criminal or crazed-obsessed background (as pointed out by John Bradley’s Colin, Kat’s manager). Rest assured, Valentine’s season is protected.
Like Jonathan Levine’s The Long Shot, Coiro’s film celebrates that ‘opposites attract’ formula, contrasting it with modern-day challenges of celebrity culture. The kind that gets you gossiped about and judged with such fire and scrutiny, leaving no room to breathe and openly ridiculed on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. Appearances are everything, an insight into the toxic hurdles female artists have to navigate through their careers. It provides ample fuel for Kat to keep up appearances by marrying someone she doesn’t know to maintain credibility and for Charlie to go along for the ride.
To no surprise, this is Jennifer Lopez in her element, channelling her previous rom-com experiences (Maid in Manhattan, The Wedding Planner etc.) and offers zero apologies for it. Hustlers is her best role, but this is a timely reminder of how she has become a sub-genre within herself. Marry Me is somewhat a perfect vehicle for Lopez – a meta rom-com encapsulating her range, navigating between that ‘hopelessly in love’ acting and a music career that made her an icon. When it occasionally strays away from the formula, it’s a concert film with an addictive soundtrack designed to sell albums and dominate playlist streams. But once those filters are removed (albeit briefly), it’s hard not to see the parallels between the trappings of fame and her life in the limelight – some of which helps sell the relatable concept.
Wilson – always one “wow” away in every sentence – brings the laidback and grounded energy to complement Lopez’s on-screen stardom. While you don’t always believe entirely in their chemistry, there’s an honest sweetness in how he plays Charlie. His character, juxtaposed against the ‘doing it for the ‘gram’ culture, operates as a baseline cypher, authenticating what is real from this exchange. And some of the film’s best moments come through his awkwardness in accommodating both worlds.
That’s the underlying point of it all. The more it leans into a La La Land fantasy, the more their relationship does the heavy lifting for the film, committing to the charm and charisma it exudes. Coiro aptly reflects this, dedicating as much of the running time towards Kat and Charlie falling in love as they get to know each other. And like every rom-com journey, it is a predictable catalyst, helping to strip away the barriers of their culture clash lifestyles. And occasionally, you’re invited to laugh at those moments (even ones not designed to be the punchline).
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But in letting Kat and Charlie dominate, other characters fall by the wayside. We hardly learn about Charlie’s ex-wife (given a brief wave and goodbye as she picks up her daughter from school). Bastian is reduced to cameo-like appearances just to throw a spanner in the works. Sarah Silverman’s Parker Deebs is a notable standout as the comic relief.
It’s easily a film that could have gone further by examining the acute perils of love and fame. But Coiro keeps this light, breezy and straightforward, permitting your brain to have the night off. That feeling is particularly true of its third act, rife with the spirit of Love Actually (including the placards). For a film that openly accepts what it is, it revels in its simplicity and on the nose silliness for love. And for that reason alone, it’s a guilty pleasure escapade.
Marry Me is out now in cinemas.