Director Kat Coiro’s Marry Me is the perfect showcase for Jennifer Lopez. The triple threat’s undeniable charisma and talents as a performer are on full display in a genre she has conquered and revolutionized.
The film is about mega pop star Kat Valdez, a persona whose every move is mined for social media content, making her image finely tuned for the masses. Valdez experiences heartbreak early on when her live wedding ceremony-concert turns upside down after finding out her fiancé Bastian (Maluma) is cheating on her. Heartbroken, she looks out into the sea of fans and picks out every day man Charlie Gilbert (Owen Wilson) and the two are married on stage.
Marry Me is a return to form for the romantic comedy genre. Joyfully diving into the tropes we all know and love, Kat Coiro leaned on Jennifer Lopez’s experience as a star to craft an authentic story about a pop star who learns the value behind living a full and grounded life. While we’ve seen Jennifer’s star power in plenty of films and her vulnerability in the star-turning performance in Hustlers, Marry Me feels the most personal.
Coiro, who collaborated closely with Lopez, highlighted her strategy, “She was always so open to having those [personal] conversations. Part of my job was to lean on her experiences, so when you look at those concert sequences part of the strategy, there was to look at her team that put her concerts together. Part of my job is to bring that authenticity that exists in J.Lo’s life.”
Director Kat Coiro spoke to AwardsRadar about working with Jennifer Lopez, the RomCom genre, and the message behind her studio film Marry Me.
Niki Cruz: You’re no stranger to the RomCom in terms of your work. I saw A Case of You at Tribeca and thought that was great. What makes you say yes to a project?
Kat Coiro: I worked in the micro-budget film world and moved on to television. I was done with movies because I was really enjoying TV. Then, I was sent the script for Marry Me, and I found it to be everything I loved. I love music, it has a great heart; it’s a romcom and about the artistic journey of a woman coming to terms with who she is and finding her voice. The first time I read it, I didn’t realize Jennifer was attached to it. So I thought, this is a really cool idea, but who will play that role? And then I found out it was Jennifer, and then I was sold because she is the only person who could do justice to this role and bring it to life in the way that she did. I met her and I was so taken by her honesty and her willingness to really share her experience, with this film, in many ways, parallels her own life.
NC: Marry Me reminded me of the quintessential RomCom I loved growing up. It’s not turning the genre on its head; in the 2010s, a lot of RomComs were sarcastic or edgy. It’s just a nice return to the genre. Was that something that also hooked you?
KC: It’s funny you say that because I always like to be positive. I’m always amazed when anyone can make a movie that is entertaining that I give everybody that love, but I absolutely felt that there was a time when the RomCom was afraid of being a RomCom. It had to go into this sarcasm, and irony, and raunch, and how far can we push the envelope? I always thought this is not the genre for that. The thing that makes the RomCom satisfying is the escapism and the hope, and the belief that there’s this sparkly world that exists. So, I had a definite moving away from the genre from that era. It’s really not putting those movies down, but when I look at Notting Hill or When Harry Met Sally or Sleepless in Seattle, I feel like there is hope in this world for happiness. I saw it in the script and really leaned into it.
NC: Jennifer is truly firing on all cylinders in this. She sings, she dances, she’s a pop star killing it in her element. I imagine as a director that’s a dream?
KC: Of course, everyone asks me what she’s really like in real life and she’s just as perfect as she seems. That perfection is not just that she’s incredibly luminous. She’s a hard worker, and she’s been doing this for so long, but she treats every day like it’s a new day and she really breaks down her character and comes prepared. She’s completely collaborative, and I saw that right at the beginning of development. We worked together to pick the songs — and it’s not just about having great songs — it’s about how do these songs tie into the narrative and the emotional trajectory of the film. She was always so open to having those conversations.
NC: This is a story that seems very meta in terms of Jennifer’s life. Audiences have seen her through various stages in her life and in this industry. There’s J.Lo the icon, but also the person who has to go home every day and be at the center of headlines. Given this was a story that seemed to personally resonate with her, did you have many discussions about what it means to be open and vulnerable in the process of making this film?
KC: 100%. At first, there are so many parallels between Jennifer’s life and Kat Valdez’s life, and there are differences, but the parallels are striking. Going into it, I was tiptoeing, talking about it in a roundabout way, and she was so direct and gave permission saying, “There are things I’ve experienced living under the microscope and being torn down.” Her honesty allowed for a really powerful dialogue between us. I became not afraid to talk about Kat Valdez’s engagement and ask her what is that about? And it’s about the desire for romanticism and hope. She was just stunningly generous in her honestly.
NC: Because of your collaboration and connection, how did you balance allowing the space for someone like her to be vulnerable while still creating that sense of security?
KC: Because we saw eye to eye on the script from the beginning, and because so much of my process is about prep, it’s about going into it with complete communication. Here are the scenes that are important to me and listening to what’s important to [her]. By the time we got onto the set we had a very open and communicative relationship that just continued. Jennifer knew that our visions were aligned and I think that’s always the most important thing. We were involved in the development of the script and making sure the words she was saying were words she had a hand in.
NC: And the film has substance. It has a message.
KC: It’s funny because the movie is so much about Kat Valdez but it’s also about Charlie Gilbert, so it was about making a character who was very secure and confident in a much smaller life. She opens his eyes, but he also opens her eyes to the whole world. Kat, unlike Jennifer, is really in this bubble because she doesn’t have a family. Her huge gigantic apartment up in the sky, the private jets, the people yes yes yes’ing her. He opens her eyes to a simpler life that she realizes she’s been lacking, and it’s one of the most important things to me in this film, especially in the social media age where everyone wants to be famous and they don’t even quite know what that means. What I saw from Jennifer’s life is that fame comes with a lot of hard work — physical work, and there’s a lot about that lifestyle is lonely. There’s a reason why the movie doesn’t end on a wedding or a big gesture of public displays of affection. It ends with three people sitting on a couch with a dog and watching TV. A big part of the message for me is that if you could find a simple life that can be just as appealing as the big fancy life.
Marry Me hits theaters and Peacock on Friday
[This interview has been edited for length and clarity]