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Valentines Day aside, it is rather fitting for Marry Me, a delightful rom-com based on a webcomic that follows the out-of-nowhere marriage between two unlucky in love strangers, to premiere at a time when Married at First Sight dominates the airwaves.
The spontaneity of such a coupling proves the quirky barrier in director Kat Coiro’s charming endeavour, with the roles of doting lovebirds handled with aplomb by music/acting superstar Jennifer Lopez and the perpetually affable Owen Wilson.
All too familiar with the will-they-or-won’t-they rigamarole of light comedies, Lopez is given with Marry Me a chance to shift the narrative (one which she has contributed to) away from treating the women of the genre as dispossessed vagabonds looking for fulfillment. It is about making it work, not obtainment. Still, Jenny from the Block remains the straight-shooting hero to the working class whose world collides with an opposing force. Lopez cares about the success of women, the reckonings with change-makers, and delving out cutting last words with the intensity of an uppercut. In what could have been rote territory for the Hustlers star, the capable hands of Coiro transforms a peculiar pairing into an opportunity to progress romantic storytelling past its troubling ilk.
In Lopez’s portrayal of Kat Valdez, a world-renowned pop sensation who is as adept at selling out stadiums as she is juicers, the themes of classism so frequently traversed by the ‘Maid in Manhattan’ star become no longer a hindrance in her relationships. In one of her first appearances on screen, it is Kat who is embraced by a man much to her junior; the alluring singer and husband-to-be, Bastian (portrayed by real-life superstar, Maluma). He’s the bad boy your parents warned you about, but boy-oh-boy does his soulful stare cut as deep as his serenades do.
Mocked by the media for her sting of unsuccessful marriages (a reality seen all too many times for women in Hollywood), it becomes all too apparent for Kat that something is missing from her exciting, albeit elaborate, relationship. Social media plays a key part in not only engaging with Bastian but in elevating one another’s profiles. So too does Coiro use it to frame how society lives through a publicly displayed, digital persona. This becomes the central point of their wedding, which isn’t so much a ceremony (a concert in fact) as it is an opportunity to promote both Kat and Bastian to twenty-million adoring fans. It is at this event where we meet benevolent single dad-of-one Charlie (Wilson); a high school math teacher whose soft-spoken Texas drawl and unassuming dress (he’s probably a compliment away from getting elbow patches on his bevy of suit jackets) tells you he’s a sensible bet.
Alas, news breaks of a scandal that unfortunately leaves Kat stranded at the altar (or in this case, a stage). Making soil out of dirt, Kat takes the opportunity to turn her heartbreak into an act of empowerment (a bit of a stretch but J.Lo sells it well). To great surprise, Kat selects Charlie, who at a fortuitous moment is holding a sign that says ‘Marry Me,’ to marry him on-stage. Now married under the law of rom-com, the two navigate the ins and outs of their high-profile relationship. Whether or not they can make things work (Charlie unwilling to move on his obligations to his school kids who are currently preparing for a math competition versus Kat’s jet-setting antics) proves as inconvenient as it does eye-opening to the love-struck admirers. In a world where social media preaches value, the Luddite Charlie offers Kat a means to step away from the pressures of fame, with the key theme of authenticity – a staple of Lopez’ creative endeavours – remaining on full display. There is enough maneuvering on Coiro’s part to keep Marry Me fresh, with the inclusion of big pop numbers – a throughline to express Kat’s shifting perspective as an artist – providing a nice jolt of energy between romantic endeavours.
Where previous J.Lo efforts have fallen asunder due to their hesitance to comedy, instead using their goofy setups – usually founded upon lies a la Wilder – and playing them with overly serious and stately moxie, Marry Me succeeds in large part to Wilson and Lopez’s wondrous interplay. (He may work with math but goodness does he bring the chemistry.) Under their lead, the film triumphs against its extravagant setup to bring a heartfelt story about connection. It’d be remiss of this reviewer to not acknowledge the film’s shifting between Spanish and English language; its effect recognises the background of characters and their interactions in a respectful fashion.
Among the slew of supporting characters include Kat’s teddy bear of a manager, Collin (John Bradley); co-worker and friend of Charlies, Parker (a scene-stealing Sarah Silverman); and timid high schooler and daughter of Charlie’s, Lou (Chloe Coleman).
Like a diamond engagement ring, Marry Me sparkles under the light of its likable cast. Sure, schmaltz permeates throughout, though it is under the skilful gaze of Coiro’s where Marry Me triumphs against sexist norms (becoming of the genre) to create a feel-good romp that is equal parts entertaining and uplifting.
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