Marry Me (2022)
A modern-day re-vamp of 1999’s Notting Hill, the new Jennifer Lopez rom-com Marry Me may be overly saccharine and predictable, but it’s also a sweet, charming romance that does enough right to warrant a ‘yes.’ Similar to the aforementioned Hugh Grant-Julia Roberts starring hit, this one follows a delightfully dorky guy who finds himself inadvertently thrust into the romantic world of a glamorous superstar.
The superstar here is Kat Valdez (Jennifer Lopez), a thrice-divorced popular singer who’s constantly in the media — her life is literally on display for the public to consume, whether through her social media presence or her various promotional stints. Kat’s latest mega-hit is a duet called “Marry Me,” a wedding anthem she wrote with her fiancé, Bastian (Colombian singer Maluma). To ‘seal the deal,’ the couple plan on getting married on stage at the end of a massive concert that’s being streamed to over 20 million fans across the world. Alas, minutes before taking the vows, Kat learns, through social media, of course, that Bastian has been unfaithful via a video that goes viral just before the nuptials. So, to avoid a PR disaster, Kat steps out on stage and does something impulsively different by calling a stranger out from the audience, then asking him to marry her.
That stranger is Charlie Gilbert (Owen Wilson), a nerdy but endearing divorced middle school math teacher who only attended the concert after his friend and coworker Parker Debbs (Sarah Silverman) convinced him that it’ll get his shy yet gifted math prodigy daughter, Lou (Chloe Coleman), to think that he’s ‘cool.’ During the event, Charlie holds up Parker’s “Marry Me” sign, which entices Kat to call him up on stage and spontaneously propose. Charlie accepts, not because he’s romantically interested in Kat, but does so to save her from another rejection. As a result, Charlie swiftly finds himself at the center of the headline fodder as everybody wants to know more about who this stranger is, given that he’s just married one of the world’s biggest celebrities.
Kat’s manager Colin Calloway (John Bradley) urges both Kat and Charlie to keep the façade up for a few months until things kind of blow over by doing a slew of public appearances and interviews. Charlie isn’t keen on the idea at first as he believes it’ll disrupt his life, but Kat and her team promise to make a significant contribution to his school if he goes along with the gig. And so, Charlie stands by Kat’s side at red carpet events and the like, while Kat shows up at his math class to ease his daughter’s nerves before a big upcoming math competition, and the pair begin to form a genuine bond. Charlie encourages Kat to turn off the cameras (she never goes anywhere without her videographer, for instance) and become more independent. At the same time, Kat teaches Charlie (an analog type of guy) about the positives of the online world (he gets an Instagram and learns how social media can be a positive tool in one’s life).
Based on the graphic novel of the same name by Bobby Crosby, and penned by telly writers Harper Dill, The Mindy Project (2012-17), John Rogers, The Core (2003), Tami Sagher, 30 Rock (2007-13), Marry Me is enjoyable and inoffensive enough, embracing the cliches of the genre while adding a fun commentary on the lifestyle of a modern celebrity and the invasive nature of social media. However, it avoids things like cartoonishly silly characters, convoluted misunderstandings, and mean/ bitchy villains; the whole thing possesses a sweet, sugar-coated niceness that’s been missing from contemporary cinema as of late. The movie also does a good job in positively representing Latinx folks on-screen, mainly with Kat and Bastian’s respective successes and how they communicate and sing in Spanish. The whole thing is slickly directed by Kat Coiro, who we’ll be seeing next behind the camera in Marvel’s She-Hulk later this year.
It helps that leads Jennifer Lopez and Owen Wilson play off one another well, which makes their whole mismatched chemistry work. If you’ve seen Hustlers (2019) or Out of Sight (1998), you’ll know that J.Lo can legitimately act. In Marry Me, she’s kind of playing a variation of herself and is totally believable in the part — unlike, say, 2002’s Maid in Manhattan. Here she’s portraying a big pop star celebrity who’s succeeded in all areas of her life, bar one, love. Lopez also shines in several of the film’s various concert pieces, with a performance of a track named “Church” sure to be what’ll stick out for most. Fortunately, the songs are great, mainly the title track by Lopez and Maluma and Lopez’s “Love of My Life.” Lopez’s co-star Wilson exhibits a shaggy type of charm as the math nerd Charlie who gets swept up in Kat’s crazy world, and it’s his honesty and tenderness that makes most of the central connection believable.
Elsewhere, Colombian singer Maluma, who recently voiced Mariano in Disney’s Encanto (2021), makes his feature film acting debut here and does a solid job as Kat’s cheating boyfriend Bastian, without making the character come off as outright sleazy or nasty. John Bradley, Moonfall (2022), pops up as Collin Calloway, Kat’s understanding manager, but is ultimately given little to do. Sarah Silverman, School of Rock (2003), fares better as Charlie’s friend Parker and provides several moments of levity throughout the film. Michelle Buteau, Always Be My Maybe (2019), has a small part as one of Kat’s assistants, Melissa, while personalities like Jimmy Fallon, Hoda Kotb, and Justin Sylvester have a few amusing cameos as themselves.
For better or worse, Marry Me never tries to be anything other than what it advertises itself as — a pleasant all-ages contemporary Notting Hill. Both Lopez and Wilson deliver winning performances, while director Coiro keeps things light and fluffy throughout. Honestly, unless you’re overly jaded, I think this is one proposal most would gladly say ‘yes’ to.
3 / 5 – Good
Reviewed by Dan Cachia (Mr. Movie)