Courtney Howard is a LAFCA, CCA, OFCS and AWFJ member, as well as a Rotten Tomatometer-approved film critic. Her work has been published on Variety, She Knows and Awards Circuit.
Courtney Howard // Film Critic
Rated PG-13, 1 hour and 52 minutes
Directed by: Kat Coiro
The first great romance of the year is here – and leading lady Jennifer Lopez ingeniously plays her greatest hits throughout, spinning a refurbished, empowering and comedically-enhanced narrative on her own real-world star power and salacious tabloid fodder. Director Kat Coiro’s perfect date night movie MARRY ME, centered on a megawatt singing superstar who marries an absolute stranger during a concert, is hilarious, charming and rapturous and spotlights a woman in full control of her power, voice and career. Part ultra-polished promotional video for a banging new LP filled with bops and ballads, part generous, genuine nod to the perfection that is NOTTING HILL, this romcom is the pure J. Lo glow we all know and love.
Hopeless romantic singing sensation Kat Valdez (Lopez) is on the cusp of a major life event: She’s about to get married in front of a live audience of 20 million people and all the news media at the last stop of her worldwide concert tour. But just as the stage has literally been set, her caring manager Colin (John Bradley) informs her that the man she loves and is about to marry, fellow singing superstar Bastian (Maluma), has cheated on her with her low-level assistant. Sad and struggling to make sense of the situation, she impulsively plucks a nobody out of the audience – divorced dad/ middle school math teacher Charlie (Owen Wilson) – and marries him on the spot.
Of course everyone in Charlie’s life, from his guidance counselor pal Parker (Sarah Silverman, who is a true highlight) to his smart-but-stage-fright-stricken daughter Lou (Chloe Coleman), encourages him to lean into his newfound husband status. But everyone in Kat’s life, from her judgmental assistant Melissa (Michelle Buteau) to her spurned lover, tries to dissuade her from continuing on with the charade. Kat, however, is interested in proving them wrong. And in the process of getting to know Charlie, and the pair inevitably falling in love during their months-long courtship, she discovers a lot about herself that she’s forgotten.
Based on Bobby Crosby’s graphic novel, adapting screenwriters John Rogers, Tami Sagher and Harper Dill infuse the hijinks and shenanigans with a sense of grounded, endearing effervescence. Thematic sentiments about picking up the broken pieces after failure resonate throughout. Scenes that are cheesy rarely veer into cloying, despite the efforts of John Debney’s omnipresent, obtuse and pushy score that undercuts many of the scenes’ poignancy and power. Plus Lopez gets to clap-back at all the media who’ve ever made her the butt of the joke.
Winks at the audience are played perfectly straight-faced. When Kat is ruthlessly mocked by late night host Jimmy Fallon (corporate synergy!) for her multiple divorces, the filmmakers knowingly recognize the stinging truths of the real star’s life. There’s a dance sequence where Lopez shows off her fly (girl) moves. She applies the same monochromatic sartorial philosophy that populated her own paparazzi and Instagram photos in the Before Times. Sequences where she’s tasked to get by on her own, minus her handlers, relying on bribing normies, are hilarious even in the subtext. Her concert number “Church” is a hysterical contribution to nunsploitation, playing like an outtake from POPSTAR: NEVER STOP NEVER STOPPING replete with dancers clad in shiny, skin-tight latex habits that would make Ken Russell’s nuns from THE DEVILS blush.
A few questionable things do arise. Despite Bastian’s initial unseemly act, his villainy fades by the second act, replaced as an obstacle by Charlie’s own self-doubts – an admirable but fraught twist on the conventional. Lou is occasionally forgotten about to the point of us asking why she’s there – except for cutesy moments where Kat teaches Charlie’s mathletes to overcome their fears, and as a catalyst for the stereotypical third act race-to-reunion. Of course, it also can’t entirely evade predictabilities that arise in the plot. The genre demands such needs be met. Yet the filmmakers make these moments feel somewhat earned, however slight they may be. It’s also nice to see the innovative modernizations that creep into the patter.
Lopez and Wilson have a lovely chemistry and charisma together, akin to hers with Matthew McConaughey in THE WEDDING PLANNER (whose marketing strategy, shrewdly released as counter programming on Super Bowl weekend with a hit song in tow, this film seems to emulate). They get in a few good volleys in their flirty, comedic banter, which ups their magnetism together. This cinematic confection is all at once savory and saccharine – and we’re here to gobble (gobble) it up.
Grade: 4 out of 5
MARRY ME opens in theaters and begins streaming on Peacock on February 11.