Prior to Jennifer Lopez becoming the global icon she’s considered today, her path as an actress was one that oft travelled in directions not expected. Sure, now we align her with romantic comedies such as The Wedding Planner, Maid In Manhattan and Second Act, but some 20-odd years ago, before she was synonymous with that Versace dress and adopted the “J.Lo” moniker for her burgeoning music career, she was someone unafraid to take risks with the roles she chose.
From the comedic criminality of a Soderbergh picture (1998’s Out of Sight), to the skewered visual acrobatics of a disturbed serial killer thriller (2000’s The Cell), Lopez was exciting in the choices she made, which is probably why her bold, Oscar-robbed turn in 2019’s Hustlers felt all the more revolutionary. We are so used to seeing her in the fluffy comedies, the movies that don’t challenge her as an actress or us as viewers that we forget what she’s capable of. That being said, as much as it is a shame that so much of her career is built on these fluffy films, they are also, ironically, where she effortlessly soars and where audiences feel the most comfortable in embracing her.
Adopting a breezy, undemanding mentality that leans into the simplicity of the 1990’s romantic comedy, Marry Me is the latest Lopez laugher that attempts to humanise the impossibly beautiful star, this time by taking on an almost autobiographical temperament in its narrative. By no means is Kat Coiro‘s film meant to be viewed as something true to Lopez’s life, but the script – a three-way collaboration between John Rogers (Transformers), Tami Sagher (TV’s Inside Amy Schumer), and Harper Dill (TV’s The Mindy Project), based off Bobby Crosby‘s graphic novel – at least has fun with her penchant for marriages and high-profile relationships.
As pop singer Kat Valdez, Lopez is treading familiar water. She’s a social media product, a mogul, the type of person whose every move and sponsored product is streamed and posted for her millions of followers to lap up. In that regard the line of where Lopez ends and Kat begins is blurred, a feeling further extended to when we meet Kat’s beau Bastian (Colombian singer-songwriter Maluma), an equally adored performer whose eyes and hands evidently aren’t locked on Kat, despite their impending nuptials.
You see, not only are Kat and Bastian intending on getting married, but they’re doing so on the latest leg of their tour – they even have a poppy duet, appropriately titled “Marry Me”, to help set the tone. Learning of Bastian’s infidelity only moments before taking the stage in her bridal get-up, Kat decides to change her narrative as she laments that being in love with Bastian was a construct that perhaps wasn’t as strong as the idea of being in love with him. She throws caution to the wind, and opting not to let her gown go to waste, or the on-hand officiary, she marries Charlie Gilbert (Owen Wilson, all sweetness and unassuming charm), a stranger in the crowd whose holding of a “Marry Me” written sign catches her eye.
It’s completely outlandish and removed from reality, but the very fabric of the romantic comedy is to provide escapism, and, somehow, Lopez and Wilson make it absolutely work. Charlie’s presence at the concert is by pure coincidence, a last-minute invite for himself and his daughter, Lou (Chloe Coleman), from his friend Parker (a scene-stealing Sarah Silverman) when her girlfriend of 17 days abruptly dumps her. As we learn, Charlie’s life as an in-bed-by 8pm single father and math teacher is worlds away from Kat’s constantly scheduled existence, and though everyone is taken aback by both her public announcement and his agreement to it, they believe in following through on such lunacy. We, of course, are all too aware that their individual structured lifestyles will benefit from each other’s outside view; she signs him up for the various social media applications in order to loosen him up, he counteracts by challenging her to go about her day free from assistants and outside help.
Over the course of the film’s 112 minutes Marry Me never deviates off the path you expect, but, to its benefit, it never pretends it’s a product hoping to reinvent the wheel. It embraces the clichés of the genre. It basks in the fantasy element that so many romantic comedies toy with, whilst maintaining a sense of grounded realism; basically a mirroring of Lopez’s lavish persona being centred by Wilson’s relatability.
Appreciators of the genre and fans of Lopez’s in general should warmly respond to the cuteness of such a film – it also helps the latter crowd that the soundtrack is essentially an extended play of pop earworms from herself and Maluma (I dare you to not singalong to the likes of their duet “Marry Me” or her soaring solo effort “On My Way”) – with it hitting every beat you expect, but managing to stay afloat in spite of such assumption.
THREE AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Marry Me is screening in Australian theatres from February 10th, 2022