Marry Me (2022)
Marry Me has a premise that is so silly that it feels like it would be the setup of a fake movie within some other movie universe, something depicting the creative lunacy of Hollywood for easy satirical laughter. But no it’s real. Based upon a graphic novel by Bobby Crosby of the same name, Jennifer Lopez plays music superstar Kat. She’s a best-selling and provocative performer and her latest single, “Marry Me,” is ruling the charts. She co-wrote the track with her fiance, and the two plan to marry live during one of her stage shows. Then news leaks that her fiance has been cheating on her with her assistant. Kat is stunned and as she’s still processing her hurt feelings onstage she spots a “Marry Me” sign in the audience, held up by Charlie (Owen Wilson), an ordinary math teacher and single father. She agrees to marry him on the spot, and Charlie is rushed onstage and the two tie the knot. Now, what to do and can they make this actually work?
Think of Marry Me as Notting Hill but where it starts at the level of international fame for romantic coupling. I found the premise to this movie, at first glance, to be absolutely preposterous. I was hoping that the movie wasn’t going to spend so much time worrying how to legitimize this silly impulsive marriage between two complete strangers. Fortunately, from their first “I do” onward the pair doesn’t really view their subsequent “relationship” as more than a publicity stunt. He’ll get more attention for his school and causes that are important to him. She’ll get a run of media attention and allow her to rebrand herself in the wake of her history of cheating louses. I was happy that the movie, at least early, doesn’t try to make this spontaneous union credible. Kat wonders, “Hey, maybe something so crazy just might work,” and of course we know it magically will, but at least they’re not panicking about how they just got married and how they are going to make this relationship work when they could as easily get annulled and got about their separate lives again. So from there, Marry Me follows the path of having these two fake lovebirds become real lovebirds over the course of their shared time.
We know it’s all going to work out, their romantic fate is sealed, but the process needs to still feel organic and earned, and that’s where I found Marry Me to be unsatisfying. Rom-coms will live and breathe depending upon their quotient of cute moments to swoon moments, ultimately winning you over and desiring the coupling. This movie already starts with the couple together, at least in a legal sense, but they don’t know one another and have no immediate feelings for one another, so the movie is like any other rom-com. They have to fall in love for real now, almost like an arranged marriage. However, I found the interactions between Kat and Charlie to be far chummier than passionate or romantic. Lopez and Wilson have zero chemistry together. There is no heat between these two. He’s too laconic and she’s too pressing. As the movie progressed, I could believe they were becoming friends. He got her to be more self-reliant, and she pushed him outside his moderate comfort zones with social media and self-promotion. They’re better friends but I felt nothing romantic between them and that’s a pretty big problem. In fact, that’s the biggest problem in a romantic comedy. If I walk away feeling like the leads would be better friends than lovers, then you haven’t put in the work, and that’s the case here.
We associate fun and cute moments from rom-coms, amusing scenarios that force our couple to work together or wacky situations where they learn more about the other in a new setting, and Marry Me feels too unimaginative here as well. This is another vital area for the development of the relationship to feel genuine, and simply just for audience enjoyment. The three screenwriters are unable to take the Notting Hill-dynamic of an ordinary person thrust into an unwanted, elevated level of fame and scrutiny and do anything with it. Charlie’s life never feels too disrupted from before; his casual public walks with Kat do not have dozens of paparazzi hounding them, annoying fans inserting themselves into his personal life, envious family members and exes coming back into the picture for attention, or even Charlie’s past being litigated by the media. His new life feels strangely absent the surreal touches we would expect and want from this plucked-from-obscurity setup.
The script assembles the standard rom-com tropes without anything more personable to make it feel meaningful to this story and these characters and their conflicts. Charlie asks Kat to come to the school dance, and this sounds like it has potential to be fun, but it never goes further than the mere idea. She’s there, the kids are flummoxed and naturally starstruck, and she sings a song to them. That’s it. When the third act comes calling, we’re left impatiently for the resolutions to hit their predictable end points. We know that the bad ex will still be the bad ex, we know that the big decision about whether to go to the fancy music industry gig or the humble Mathlete championship is no struggle, and we know the valiant efforts to travel back in time will be crossed at the exact moment desired. Marry Me disappoints because it squanders its unique or alluring plot elements and too often settles for resuscitating stale genre tropes.
Marry Me feels almost out of time, like an early 2000s rom-com star vehicle for Wilson (Loki) and Lopez (Hustlers). Both actors are in their 50s now, and ostensibly playing characters in their 40s, but the movie treats them like they might as well be in their late 20s. He’s divorced with a pre-teen daughter and she’s had multiple high-profile marriages, but so much more could have been articulated, especially about a 40-something woman trying to keep her perch in an industry always looking to replace aging superstars with the next young pretty thing available. This perspective gets the occasional mention, but that conflict feels mysteriously ignored, like even approaching the idea would be insulting rather than establishing an intriguing new level of self-reflection and potential connection for these two middle-aged characters. A big screen rom-com with characters in their 40s, or beyond, is such a rare find, let alone having one of those characters in the shallow field of entertainment. Ignoring this opportunity is confusing.
While the writing and chemistry is lacking in Marry Me, the two stars are still enjoyable to watch. I didn’t believe their romantic union but I believed that they genuinely enjoyed hanging around one another. So while Marry Me doesn’t work as the story of two people miraculously falling in love under contrived circumstances, it can work as the story of a burgeoning friendship of unlikely friends. If you think of it from that angle, the movie is a lot more agreeable and entertaining to watch over the course of its 110 minutes. Lopez and Wilson are still charming leads, and the movie never gets too serious or overwhelming to actively dislike. It’s ultimately a middle-of-the-road rom-com, low-key enough to coast on the appeal of its stars but absent anything to make the characters and their romance feel personable and meaningful. It’s no different than something you might see on cable in the middle of an afternoon. You can do worse than Marry Me as far as formulaic rom-coms go, but you could certainly do better, and I advise you dear reader, in your rom-coms as well as your relationships, not to settle for less.
Nate’s Grade: C