Trigger Warning: Marry Me contains several scenes involving lights flashings, predominantly from cameras. Be advised in case you have any kind of light sensitivity.
If you sit in the question, the answer will find you.
This line, the mantra from Owen Wilson’s math teacher Charlie Gilbert, is both a phrase he uses to guide his students when plagued with difficult arithmetic, but is also a central theme to the Jennifer Lopez-led romantic comedy Marry Me. It’s an idea that, rather than panic or react, allow yourself to feel the moment, feel the energy, to allow yourself time to let the answer come. It’s a great technique for instructing adolescents through big emotions and it’s a lovely sentiment that audiences of all ages can learn to abide by. As the notion of love is given more introspection than normal in February, what better place to reflect on this than a rom-com that plays with the tropes of its genre, offering genuine laughs and a few tears, all set to a banging soundtrack?
Superstar Kat Valdez (Lopez) is preparing to marry her fiancée, fellow musician Bastian (Maluma), live on stage during a concert streamed to millions of her fans. Wearing her gown on the way to the stage, she learns that he’s cheated, so she decides, in the moment, that she will get married as planned. That’s when she spots Charlie Gilbert (Wilson) holding a “Marry Me” sign and says “Yes.” This impulsive moment comes with a great deal of public blowback, requiring the two to stay together for a time until things cool off. But in that time, Kat and Charlie may just find the answer they didn’t realize they were looking for.
Adapted from the Bobby Crosby webcomic of the same name, the plot of Marry Me is basically the same from the source, just tailored to fit the cast and their personalities. Lopez truly shines here, allowed to have the kind of unabashed, unashamed silliness that reinforces the “Jenny from the Block” mentality that’s followed the multihyphenate for the bulk of her musical and theatrical career. She also possesses the energy and presence that the type of character Kat is requires: someone who is adored by millions, whose life is constantly being scrutinized, and who’s experienced some kind of blowback on her private decisions from a public who thinks their opinions carry weight. Similarly, Wilson possesses the track record of a strong leading and supporting actor, someone who has no issue allowing someone else take the spotlight, an ability that makes his presentation of social media-phobic divorcee Charlie the kind of positive and challenging force for Lopez’s Kat. In fact, the best thing about Marry Me is how the script from John Rogers (Leverage: Redemption), Tami Sagher (Psych), and Harper Dill (The Mick) recognizes these strengths in Lopez and Wilson, allowing them to mix and mingle, all while having fun with the expectations that come with a romantic comedy. In most case, the outcome of a rom-com is set in stone (Roman Holiday (1953); Notting Hill (1999)) with too few creating surprises (Isn’t It Romantic (2019)). Marry Me isn’t a reinvention, but it’s the kind of remix on a well-worn genre that’ll have you saying “Yes!” by the end.
According to the production notes for Marry Me, Lopez has never sung in a movie prior to this one, so she was excited to take part in a production with her own voice. Granted, I’m more of a fan of her acting than her music (1998’s Out of Sight remains my favorite performance of hers to date, seconded by 2019’s Hustlers), yet I couldn’t help but get swept up in the songs, most of which are hers and several of which were released prior to the film. The beauty of each one is that they don’t feel manufactured for the film; rather, each one is directly connected to the narrative, pushing character arcs forward with each one. The standouts are “Love of My Life,” an uptempo anthem of self-reliance, “On My Way,” a bittersweet ballad, and, of course, the titular “Marry Me,” which comes in standard duet and stripped-down form. Each song feels as genuine to Kat as it does to Lopez, blurring the line between the imaginary and realized performer so that we, the audience, are dazzled by the illusion.
Where the film stumbles is when it places so much focus on the “Will They/Won’t They” of Kat and Charlie, something we know is more of “Will They Then/Will They Now,” that it loses some of its steam when involving the subplot of Charlie’s daughter Lou, played by Chloe Coleman (Gunpowder Milkshake). It’s the dynamic between Charlie and Lou that emphasizes his unanswered question and it’s the more rushed component of the film, as though the script wasn’t sure how to include Lou while providing ample musical sequences. That said, Coleman holds her own with Lopez and Wilson, which is unsurprising given her recent scenework in others films with stars like Karen Gillan and Dave Bautista, making something honest with all her screentime.
As someone in the film remarks, the song “Marry Me” is bound to become a new staple wedding tune. I think it’s either going to become a flash dance-type event at the ceremony, a supporting track for a commemorative video, or just used in innumerable proposals. It’s a song full of heart, possessing that special something that resonates with audiences today. It’s certainly a bonus that the film itself is kind about a life in modernity – rarely simple; almost always full of complications – while also sweet and charming no matter the venue you enjoy it in: at the theater or at home streaming via Peacock.
In theaters and streaming on Peacock February 11th, 2022.
For more information, head to the official Marry Me website.
Final Score: 4 out of 5.