Marry Me

Directed by Kat Coiro
Distributed by Universal Pictures 

Written by Patrick Hao

64/100

There was a time when there would be six movies like “Marry Me” released in theaters a year, often starring Jennifer Lopez, as well. But, with the disruption of film distribution and the movie studios diminishing the value of seeing this type of schmaltzy romantic comedy on the big screens, movies like “Marry Me” are being relegated to streaming. The byproduct of such a move is that these romantic comedies are made for a smaller budget and lack stars. A straight-to Netflix movie like “Set It Up,” which has been highly regarded, cannot escape the feeling of VOD cheapness that the big budgeted escapist romcoms offer. Lopez might be one of the few stars who could still release a romantic comedy like this in theaters – albeit a compromised one as this film was also released simultaneously on Peacock.

Jennifer Lopez plays Kat Valdez, a Jennifer Lopez-type pop star, who is marrying live in concert and streaming to 20 million people Bastien (played by Colombian pop star Maluma). However, moments before the vows Valdez discovers that Bastien has been cheating on her, she decides to marry a random audience member. That audience member is math teacher, single-dad, and everyman Charlie Gilbert (Owen Wilson). Charlie does not care for technology or the limelight. Rather, he was dragged to the concert by his daughter, Lou (Chloe Coleman), and colleague Parker (Sarah Silverman playing a Sarah Silverman-type). Recognizing a woman suffering through a breakdown, Charlie agrees to the proposal and subsequent PR campaign afterward. Essentially it’s “Notting Hill.”

While Lopez and Wilson do not have great chemistry together, they are effervescent pros, so comfortable in their established star personas, that it is impossible not to be charmed by them just doing activities with each other. The movie may be a rom-com but the “com” in the genre is definitely more comfort than it is comedy. Everything is so pleasant that any time any wrench in the plot is introduced to disrupt the calm, it feels unwelcome.

If “Marry Me” offers anything interesting to the genre, it is its inversion of “Notting Hill.” That film, starring Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant playing a similar dynamic, was predicated on the way tabloids shape a star persona. “Marry Me” is at its most compelling in depicting the way a modern star is often trying to control and regain control of their persona through self-presentation. Sure, there are paparazzi and bad “Tonight Show” pop shots, but Lopez’s Kat Valdez is constantly self-taping. The cameraman following her is hired by her team. She has to present her “authentic self” via Instagram Live. She is trying to control her narrative. This is especially apropos to Lopez, whose three-decade career at this point made her well acquainted to the evolution of the way a star presents to the public.

Ultimately, “Marry Me” is a testament to how rare a film of its ilk has become. Even the budget of “Marry Me” is indicative of how movie studios regard romcoms. The film was made for a reported $23 million – one can only imagine how much of the budget was for Jennifer Lopez’s and Owen Wilson’s salaries. By comparison, “Maid in Manhattan” cost $65 million in 2002 money. If “Marry Me” was released in 2002, this would have just been a forgettable film. But nowadays in a desert of studio romantic comedies, this film feels like a refreshing glass of water.

Marry Me Trailer

“Marry Me” is currently in theatrical release and on Peacock.

You can follow Patrick and his passion for film on Letterboxd and Twitter.

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