Marry Me

Marry Me Is Held up by the Sheer Force of Jennifer Lopez’s Star Power

Dept. of Rom-Contrivances


In Marry Me, the prerequisite meet cute between our two protagonists happens at a concert. Kat Valdez (Jennifer Lopez), the world’s most popular diva, is about to get married in the most public way: at a live performance, in front of each and every one of her fans. Just before the nuptials, however, her entire world collapses around her when she discovers that her husband to be, fellow pop idol Bastian (Maluma), has been cheating on her.

Heartbroken and embarrassed, she looks out over the crowd when her eyes fall upon the slightly stupefied Charlie Gilbert (Owen Wilson), who just happens to be standing there and holding a homemade sign that reads: “marry me.” Kat impulsively says, “yes.” After which he is hauled up on stage, subjected to a faux wedding ceremony, and told that he needs to maintain the facade for the sake of Kat’s public image.

It’s an incredibly contrived setup, and a slightly problematic one too, but hey, it’s J Lo and Owen Wilson doing some romancing in what feels like a weird cross between Notting Hill and Married at First Sight, so we’re not really expected to spend too much time thinking about it.

Just Say Yes

Marry Me

Marry Me shouldn’t work. But it sort of does. It may be incredibly predictable, but director Kat Coiro brings a level of knowingness to the proceedings that keeps everything moving swiftly along. She is well aware that her movie is very much a paint-by-numbers romantic comedy, but she also knows that the paint she’s using (see: Jennifer Lopez) is both brilliant and bright.

This is J Lo’s first bona-fide rom-com since 2010’s The Back-up Plan (What to Expect When You’re Expecting and Second Act don’t strictly count) and she’s clearly all in. She’s recorded nine new songs for the soundtrack. (And damn, they sure are catchy!) She’s been the face of the promotional campaign for the movie. She’s even playing a character who is a thinly veiled reflection of herself.

Age has only served to further enrich and enhance her talent. And while the mechanical script may not be worthy of her gifts as a performer, she nevertheless gives it her all, elevating the material far beyond what was likely on the page.

Owen Wilson is… Owen Wilson. He is so unreservedly ordinary. His tousled hair, raspy drawl, and overwhelming whiteness makes him the last person that Kat Valdez might willingly pick if she was of sound mind. Which is, in itself, perfect casting for this movie.

Movies like this live or die by the two biggest names on the poster. And in Marry Me, it is the charm of our two leads and the chemistry between them that cover up a multitude of mediocrities. It is their sheer presence that makes this movie watchable. It is how I found myself disarmed and having a good time.

All of This Has Happened Before and Will Happen Again

Marry Me

Marry Me, in many ways, feels like a legacyquel of sorts. Not to any one rom-com, but to all of them. With the big screen rom-com all but dead (the genre has long since found new life on streaming sites like Netflix), it feels like the people making this movie decided that the best way to make a return to theaters was to pummel audiences with nostalgia.

And so this movie cribs from all the greats. It steals its best ideas from Notting Hill and The Proposal. It populates its cast with characters lifted directly from the Nora Ephron/Richard Curtis playbook. (Gay best friend. Check. Precocious child. Check. Sassy assistant. Double check.) It is templated to within an inch of its life.

There is a fleeting attempt here at subverting traditional rom-com tropes, but it’s so half-hearted that it doesn’t really matter.

Instead, all of it just feels familiar. All of it is oddly comforting. It’s aim being to lull you into a romantic stupor for about 112 minutes. Whether or not it succeeds depends greatly on your state of mind and susceptibility to cookie-cutter cheesiness.


Marry Me

The best rom-coms, much like love itself, demand the willing suspension of disbelief. They are often rooted in an absurd premise – finding love through a radio talk show, hiring a Hollywood prostitute to be your escort for a number of business functions, swapping homes at Christmas, saving your longtime crush from a speeding train, time travel, even just plain old serendipity – and are rendered believable by the charm and chemistry of their leads, an ability to hit all of our teary soft spots, and our collective aspirations towards being swept off our feet. They rely on how much we love the idea of being in love.

Whatever revised opinions you may have about Love Actually (and they are wrong!), you cannot deny that the rom-com, as a genre, has always been rooted in joy. Campy, cheesy, kitschy joy. These movies are almost always well intentioned and celebratory.

Which is why we so often find ourselves in a different headspace when watching a rom-com, avoiding all critical thought, getting caught up in the romance of it all, and identifying, even agonizing, with whatever is happening on screen. Would a Hollywood star ever fall in love with a London bookseller? Never. Can a sports agent grow a conscience? Highly unlikely. But it doesn’t matter. Because for about 90 to 120 minutes, we’re allowed to live with the hope that fairy tales can come true. That it could happen to you.

Marry Me is in no way a classic like Notting Hill or The Holiday. It’ll never be a cultural touchstone like When Harry Met Sally or Sleepless in Seattle. It’s far too derivative to be either of those things. It is, however, just entertaining enough, just sweet enough, and just charming enough to remind you why you loved rom-coms in the first place.

Marry Me is now showing in Malaysian cinemas.

Uma has been reviewing things for most of his life: movies, television shows, books, video games, his mum's cooking, Bahir's fashion sense. He is a firm believer that the answer to most questions can be found within the cinematic canon. In fact, most of what he knows about life he learned from Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. He still hasn't forgiven Christopher Nolan for the travesties that are Interstellar and The Dark Knight Rises.

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