Let’s be honest here: if you’re watching Marry Me this weekend, you probably know you’ve seen this plot a thousand times before. A complete stranger becomes friends with a wealthy celebrity (in this case, one of the most successful pop singers/influencers working today) and ultimately falls in love with her. They, obviously, end up together and live happily ever after, otherwise what’s the point of watching this? And yet, as clichéd as the plot is, it works like a charm. And that’s in part because director Kat Coiro (of the upcoming MCU Disney+ series She-Hulk) knows the strengths of her film and focuses on them instead of its familiar plot.
Based on the graphic novel series of the same name, Marry Me tells the story of Kat Valdez (Jennifer Lopez), the pop singer/influencer in question, ready to sing the film’s titular song with her fiancé Bastian (Maluma) during their wedding concert. However, scandal befalls their evening before they sing their song, as PageSix publishes a video of Bastian having an affair with one of Kat’s assistants. So, in a spur-of-the-moment decision, she points out to an audience member, Charlie Gilbert (Owen Wilson), just a “normal guy,” to marry him. At first, they meet up every couple of days to promote their “unusual” marriage, but slowly start to know each other and, ultimately, fall in love.
As mentioned above, this is stuff you’ve all seen before, especially if you’re a fan of Jennifer Lopez’s rom-coms, such as The Wedding Planner, Maid in Manhattan, Monster-in-Law, and, yes, Gigli. The basic plot of Marry Me recycles from any other Jennifer Lopez rom-com where the male actor du jour will fall in love with Lopez. But the reason why we’re watching isn’t so much the plot but the chemistry between the two leads. That’s partly why Gigli didn’t work. Oddly enough, Ben Affleck and J Lo share a relationship in real life, but their chemistry in the film felt awkward (the dialogue didn’t help) and ridiculous.
In Marry Me, the chemistry between Owen Wilson and Lopez is highly palpable and quite fun to watch. Both actors are one year apart and have starred in many comedies to know what works and what doesn’t. Wilson’s “average guy” charm as Charlie pairs surprisingly well with Lopez’s exuberant costumes and over-the-top lifestyle, making it an “instant match” for both of them. They are amusing together and add lots of heart to the movie itself. Without Wilson and Lopez, the film probably wouldn’t have worked as it did. Wilson is funny during sequences with his math club while seducing Lopez when he convinces her to remove all of her “influencer distractions” because she’s naturally beautiful. Lopez will then challenge Wilson’s Charlie to get on social media and create his “virtual” personality. They both wonderfully complement one another, even if they are mostly devoid of legitimate flaws. It’s a “match made in heaven” couple whose flaws can be quickly glossed over for the deep love they have together.
Unfortunately, the movie does fall into the traditional three-act platitudes which plague most rom-coms today. Bastian will try to reclaim Kat’s love, leading to a “falling out” between Charlie and Kat before the film’s emotional “third act,” where they unconditionally express their love for one another. However, it admirably tries to avoid any cliché that would make the third act’s viewing experience feel unbearable. Bastian is not a particularly despicable character, even if his actions hurt Kat. He only cares about himself, as he loves to boast his fame and seduce any women he meets.
But he’s not riddled with the tropes of a “despicable fiancé/husband,” who, despite all of his terrible actions, the female lead still wants to stay with her because she feels he can change. Maluma is barely in the movie, and any scene involving him does not last very long because the film isn’t interested in him, nor his quest for a “second chance” between himself and Kat. Instead, Marry Me is all about Kat and Charlie’s relationship: how they will forge a bond, how their friendship will soar to new heights once they start to learn more about one another, and, eventually, how they fall in love. It barely focuses on the clichéd three-act structure it presents because Coiro and screenwriters John Rogers, Tami Sagher, and Harper Dill know it’s the film’s weakest link. Instead, it devotes its entire focus to making the Kat and Charlie work, making the film a memorable one.
In retrospect, it probably wouldn’t have been as good without Wilson and Lopez’s indelible chemistry, who make up the film’s entire heart and soul. And even if we know where the whole movie is going, we can’t help but be charmed by an ageless J. Lo having the time of her life with Owen Wilson inside a film designed to exploit both of their strengths as actors. It may be an amazingly clichéd Valentine’s Day rom-com to watch during the weekend, but it gets the job done and does it so with deep affection and grace, which is rarely found in most romantic comedies made today.
Marry Me is now playing in theatres and streaming on Peacock (for Canadian audiences, the film is available to rent on video-on-demand).