Jennifer Lopez and Owen Wilson are the unlikely couple at the heart of new romcom Marry Me – and that’s the point.
The last times Jennifer Lopez headlined a romantic comedy vehicle engineered around her? Well, there’s The Back-Up Plan from 2010, 2005’s Monster In Law, or perhaps more conventionally 2002’s Maid In Manhattan. I remember quite liking the latter, although couldn’t tell you much about it. These were, though, fashioned as movie star vehicles around an undeniable screen talent, in an era where romcoms were rich.
Now, they’re not. At least not in cinemas. Thus, to see a major romcom from a studio with a star at the heart? Well, over the last decade it’s become a novelty.
The setup for this one is built very much about Lopez’s playbook, although its source is actually a comic book by Bobby Crosby, that’s been adapted to the screen by Harper Dill and John Rogers. The basic premise is that a major international music sensation, Lopez’s Kat Valdez, is set to marry another major international music sensation, Maluma’s Bastian, live in front of 20 million people. This is established in an opening sequence that breathes the efficiency of Pixar’s Up, and leaves us in little doubt – even if we didn’t know the genre – that the shit is about to hit the fan.
Just as the pair are set to be married in front of people waving mobile phones, with the timing of a Downing Street lockdown party image, a picture emerges of Bastian, er, ‘examining the tongue’ of another woman. The marriage is off. J-Lo instead marries some random bloke from the crowd, who happens to be Owen Wilson’s Charlie. All the while, people post messages such as ‘who dis’, ‘WTF’ and ‘what is happening’.
Well, what is happening is your traditional heightened romcom, with space afforded to a few Lopez songs to shift some soundtrack albums. The other affects parties in all of this are John Bradley as Kat’s manager Collin, Sarah Silverman as his school colleague Parker, and Chloe Coleman as his daughter, Lou. Bradley you might recently remember from Roland Emmerich’s documentary feature Moonfall, and it’s interesting that he’s chosen to gamble on a implausible fantasy such as Marry Me after that project. Mix it up, right?
The story map for the majority of romcoms – and I’m not doing spoilers here – is 80% predictable, and thus the onus is generally on the journey. And you know what? That’s where Marry Me took me by pleasant surprise. At one stage I checked my watch, thinking 40 minutes or so must have passed, and found there was around 20 minutes left. It’s directed with pace and energy by Kat Coiro, and the central romance between Wilson and Lopez – whilst not entirely convincing – is sweet and charming. I think this is where casting slightly older performers in a romcom helps too: they bring with it a degree of weariness and savvy, and that’s the case here. Lopez is strong value, and Wilson goes quiet and introvert convincingly too. It’s an unusual couple, the stakes never soar, but I enjoyed spending time with them.
What’s good too is the film, in the midst of the song and dance numbers, a maths competition (Wilson’s character is a maths teacher), and the general romcom fluff, there are a few things it wants to say. About celebrity culture, the way people are commoditised in the public eye, and about ten pin bowling techniques.
Conversely, Sara Silverman is surprisingly underused – a pity, her character had promise – and the ending feels very rushed. But also, Marry Me is rightly comfortable in its own clothes, and never wants to treat a romcom with irony or scorn. There’s commitment to the genre here, albeit with no a ton of rom, and perhaps a few dashes short of enough com.
But still, it’s sweet, enjoyable, breezy and fun. What’s odd is how, in the space of just over a decade, films such as this feel like a novelty. Perhaps Hollywood might like to entertain the idea of a few more?
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