Jennifer Lopez wows in a Notting Hill-inspired romance playing a jilted pop star who marries regular guy Owen Wilson
In case you’ve forgotten Hustlers – and, frankly, how dare you – Marry Me is yet another handy reminder that Jennifer Lopez can do pretty much anything. The pop star and actor, who also produced Marry Me, plays Kat Valdez, a world-famous singer-songwriter who thinks she has finally found the one in Latin heartthrob ‘Bastian (Latin heartthrob Maluma). Sadly not. Just as they’re set to get married in the middle of one of her concerts – her latest single, “Marry Me,” is to be taken literally – tabloid bible Page Six drops footage of ‘Bastian getting it on with Kat’s assistant.
DILF math teacher and overall stand-up guy Charlie (Owen Wilson) lives in a different world. Still treating the wound of a divorce, he raises stubborn teen Lou (Chloe Coleman) three days a week and senior citizen bulldog Tank 24/7. Charlie gets his kicks from coaching school math club the Pythons and occasional light banter with Coolidge High colleagues Parker (Sarah Silverman) and Jonathan (Stephen Wallem). Like Tank, Charlie seems fine with being a little past it.
So when Parker’s plans change and two tickets to Kat’s concert-cum-actual-wedding are foisted upon him, Lou and Charlie tag along. The Page Six scoop breaks just as Kat is hoisted onto the stage. Spotting Charlie with Parker’s handmade “MARRY ME” sign in the crowd, she makes a last-minute groom switch. The PR aftershock, Kat and Charlie’s Earth-spanning differences, and whether or not they really do share a connection all become Marry Me’s subjects of interest.
Taking cues from Notting Hill and When Harry Met Sally, Marry Me makes sure not to go too out there in its effort to tell a cute story about two particularly mismatched lovers. Still, that central conceit is audacious to the point of unbelievable, and director Kat Coiro takes care to make sure Marry Me is in on the joke. If you can laugh with rather than at Marry Me as it lays its admittedly bold cards on the table, you’re in for a treat.
Lopez and Wilson’s chemistry doesn’t quite make it into Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant territory, but they are better together than anyone could reasonably have expected. The handful of kisses they share are pretty fiery, and Wilson’s whole hot dad deal works just well enough to close the attractiveness gap between them. The rest is covered by his world-class simping, which Wilson sells well but occasionally feels a bit much at times. It makes sense that Charlie is kind-hearted enough to urge Kat to “follow her heart” wherever it takes her, even if it’s away from him and back to ‘Bastian. But a less straightforwardly virtuous male lead might’ve been more interesting (it certainly would’ve been more relatable).
Nevertheless, Marry Me doesn’t get much wrong, and deserves praise for doing more than phoning in a bunch of familiar tropes. Editing by Michael Berenbaum, particularly in the first half, compliments the comedy well. And cinematographer Florian Ballhaus, son of the late legend Michael, impresses behind the camera, just as he did on The Devil Wears Prada. Coiro has a formidable crew at her disposal and it shows.
Not many old-fashioned romantic comedies are being made these days, so it’s become a particular kind of pleasant surprise when one does come along. Marry Me is a strong entry in an undernourished canon and a reminder that the genre still has plenty to offer. Not that we needed one.
Marry Me is now in UK cinemas.Where to watch