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Marry Me: J.Lo Charms in a Winning Throwback Romantic Comedy (Review)

Image courtesy of Universal Pictures

Marry Me follows in the footsteps of Notting Hill to ask the eternal question “what if a famous celebrity fell in love with a normal person?” Here, Jennifer Lopez (Out of Sight, Hustlers) plays popstar Kat Valdez. During a special nuptial concert with her fiancé Bastian (Colombian singer Maluma), Kat learns of his infidelity. In the moment where the couple was supposed to play their new hit single – the titular “Marry Me” – Lopez looks into the crowd and sees Owen Wilson (The Royal Tenenbaums, Wedding Crashers) holding his daughter’s sign that reads, you guessed it, “Marry Me.” Kat invites the man, Charlie, on stage and says yes.

It’s a silly premise deeply indebted to a lot of the great romantic comedies of the 80s and 90s. And yet, when Lopez and Wilson kiss during that initial marriage ceremony, it’s clear there is more than a little heat to the pairing. Marry Me is also pretty successful at rendering the complexities of influencer and celebrity life in the current age. It’s not just that Kat has ceaseless travel commitments and cannot head out in public lest she be swarmed, in 2022 that character must be always online. She films Instagram videos of juicers and had a cameraman recording her every move to make sure to keep her social media accounts flogged at every moment.

Image courtesy of Universal Pictures

The film is, of course, a most basic and predictable romantic comedy. Our mismatched couple will spend time stuck together, realize that they quite like one another, tragic circumstances will drive them apart, and a grand gesture will reunite them. The film is littered likable, quirky supporting players in our lovers’ lives, John Bradley (Game of Thrones, Moonfall) and Sarah Silverman (Take This Waltz, Wreck-It Ralph) chief among them here. Much like in a superhero movie, the success of a story like this is in the details. We need to care about our protagonists and, silly as the connection may be, need to care about their story working out.

And on that count, I found Marry Me resoundingly successful. I’m not sure I ever actually bought that a famed jet setting pop star would fall for a math teacher, but the performers do more than enough to make me suspend my disbelief. Owen Wilson is doing Owen Wilson things, which tend to work well in romantic comedies. Wilson has an “aww shucks” sweetness to him that he can ratchet up when the role requires it and he leans into that entirely here. He has a believable rapport with his daughter, played by Chloe Coleman (whose resume includes My Spy, Gunpowder Milkshake, Upload, and Big Little Lies all before reaching high school age). The character is perhaps a bit too perfect: too forgiving of Kat’s unavailability, too willing to go along with the gimmick marriage, too accepting of the ways his interests are dismissed. Nevertheless, it’s a sweet, charming performance.

Image courtesy of Universal Pictures

Lopez, however, is the film’s MVP. She has the far more difficult role to sell this sort of romance. What’s most impressive is that in some of the scenes where the film might most have teetered into something too goofy to embrace, like when Kat makes a habit of visiting Charlie’s after school competitive math team, Lopez plays the scenes as an outsider who wishes she could still have that sort of life. Elements of it feel quite meta as Lopez herself has been an enormous star for 25 years now who, like Kat, has gone through tabloid publicized romances and heartbreaks and various professional highs and lows.

As someone who has long thought Jennifer Lopez is a deeply underrated actress, it is with mixed emotions that I think she may well win her first Oscar for this film. Despite having worthy acting performances on her resume such as Lorene Scafaria’s Hustlers and Steven Soderbergh’s Out of Sight, I suspect her destiny is to be nominated in the best original song category. Lopez has built an entire album out of Marry Me – her charisma as a performer means the film’s frequent music video-esque interludes end up appealing rather than distracting – but here’s hoping the producers are wise enough to avoid “Encanto-ing” themselves and push the “expected” “Marry Me” over the far superior “On My Way.”

I suspect you already know if Marry Me appeals to you or not. It’s such a classic romantic comedy so in love with the genre that it overtly nods time and again to other romcom greats. It also has the sort of studio film production values and star power that the recent array of Netflix romantic comedies lack. I was charmed, and I suspect you might be as well.

Image courtesy of Universal Pictures

Marry Me is in theaters and on Peacock on February 11, 2022.

Final Review will be running a special Valentine’s Day video review of the film here and audio review on the podcast feed over the weekend.