Marry Me (2022) has something old, something new, and some things borrowed from other, better films.
Despite a mute-worthy soundtrack, the latest romantic comedy and backstage musical from Jennifer Lopez starts out strong. She plays a serial monogamist pop star who is promoting her impending marriage to an equally big celebrity (well played by Maluma in his film debut). The setup almost seems as if Lopez is breaking the fourth wall to poke fun at herself in a refreshing way.
When her engagement ends in the first act, J-Lo’s character, Kat Valdez, gives a speech about the illusions of love, saying, “We get so caught up in what we want our life to be that we forget what our love actually is. A lie. A fairy tale that you sold yourself so long ago that you forgot that it wasn’t real.”
But then her character forgets what she just said and promptly follows a fairy tale she sells herself. Within moments of her high-profile break up, Kat gets involved with an unassuming travel book store owner played by Hugh Grant. Make that, an unassuming math teacher played by Owen Wilson.
At nearly two hours, Marry Me feels as though it’s rehashing formulaic tropes in slow motion. Although director Kat Coiro cleverly references the famed cue card flashing bit from Love Actually (2003) and the memorable jewelry box snap from Pretty Woman (1990), the rest of the movie is a blatant rip-off of Notting Hill (1999). Only without the charm.
Surprisingly, the screenplay by John Rogers, Tami Sagher, and Harper Dill is based on a graphic novel. But judging by the words of Bobby Crosby and the illustrations by Remy “Eisu” Mokhtar, the young adult comic book appears to be about a 20-something singer. Lopez is in her 50s.
In an effort to justify why a middle-aged woman with three failed marriages is behaving like an optimistic ingénue falling in love, the film has Kat explain, “like math: when you get a problem wrong, you don’t just give up on it. You keep trying ’til you get it right.” Too bad this theory hasn’t yet applied to J-Lo’s film career.
With a list of rom-com bombs (Gigli, The Back-up Plan, Maid in Manhattan, Monster-in-Law, Second Act, The Wedding Planner, What to Expect When You’re Expecting) below her belt, the leading lady might be better served to try something new, like tackle more age-appropriate material.
There’s a wealth of interesting and entertaining content to mine in more mature romances. For starters, the stakes are higher for the characters, who may be more conflicted, complicated and quirky in their older years. But instead of finding the humor in authentic situations, Marry Me is filled with forced jokes and contrived obstacles that are as real as J-Lo’s false eyelashes.
Marry Me is available on Amazon Prime, as is the recommended Notting Hill, which can also be streamed on Peacock and HBO Max.