Marry Me Review: You Come Tweet Me
A film that operates on multiple levels, “Marry Me” is for you if you’re looking for reasons to hate J. Lo. If you’re looking for reasons to love J. Lo, ditto. If you’re looking for a romantic film that will make you cry, the surreal sight of a dressed-to-the-nines superstar trying to catch a bus, or a movie that will remind you why you fell in love with Owen Wilson the movie star, you’ll want to give it a watch — preferably, alongside someone to cuddle.
First off, a caveat: The second half of “Marry Me” is so much better than the first. The film runs just under two hours, and the first hour or so is spent establishing Jennifer Lopez’s Kat Valdez as a hyper-scheduled, hyper-successful, social media-obsessed superstar who spends her days posting sponsored content about juicing while dozens of hangers-on orbit around her wielding make-up, hairbrushes, ornate outfits and purses — essentially, it’s what we all assume J. Lo’s real life is like. These scenes are interspersed with what feels like mini music videos (Lopez is putting out a “Marry Me” soundtrack with 12 songs, many performed alongside co-star/co-singer Maluma) and none-too-subtle product placement for everything from NBC Universal (who is putting out the film) to a design-your-own website company.
After 60 minutes of this, you could be forgiven if you find yourself hoping international superstar Kat Valdez is about to get hit by a big rig. But that’s kinda the point: Kat’s life has become one big media campaign, to the point where she and boyfriend/international recording sensation Bastian (Maluma) have a new hit duet called “Marry Me,” which they plan to perform in concert as they get married, streaming the ceremony to the world. Talk about synergy.
Through an unlikely chain of events, this concert is attended by middle school math teacher Charlie Gilbert (Wilson), his best friend/co-worker Parker (Sarah Silverman) and 12-year-old daughter Lou (Chloe Coleman). Through an even more unlikely chain of events, Charlie ends up holding Parker’s sign that says “Marry Me,” just as Kat realizes on stage in front of the world that her betrothed has been cheating on her. Scanning the audience in a moment of disappointment and desperation, she locks eyes with Charlie and essentially says “Why not?”
Charlie — just the sort of good-natured guy who would go to her concert even though he’s not necessarily a fan — only semi-reluctantly comes onto the stage, steps in for the disgraced Bastian and marries Kat as the world streams it (“Marry Me” has many shots of people live-streaming, liking and commenting on its action). When the smoke clears, one of the world’s most popular entertainers has married a teacher who goes to bed at 8:00 and doesn’t do social media. So what now?
The rushing bride
“Why is everything on [a man’s] terms?” she explains of her actions at a press conference introducing her new beau to the world. “No, I think it’s time to shake things up. How about this: We pick the guy, we keep our name, and we let him earn the right to stay.”
This is where the movie opens up nicely, exploring not only the female empowerment angle that lines implies, but also two other themes ripe for potential. For starters (without picking on Jennifer Lopez, per se) we’ve all had that moment where we see in the news that “Celebrity X,” coming off a bad relationship with a celebrity, is now dating another celebrity — and had the thought that in a world populated with 8 billion people, it’s absurdly narcissistic to think your potential “soulmate” is limited to the relatively minuscule percentage that is famous people. Why doesn’t Angelina Jolie or Tom Cruise or Taylor Swift just date a “normal” person? The second half of this film plays out that thought, with mostly satisfying results.
The other ripe theme is what would a superstar be like slumming it with us “normal” folk? Not in an exploitative, contrived “The Simple Life” way, but how would they navigate it? Jennifer Lopez has always clung tightly to her “Jenny from the Block” cred, but here she indulges the concept — and the best scenes of the movie come in the final act, where she’s made up like she’s attending the Grammys, but ends up sitting in a middle coach seat on a flight to Peoria. Watching her sit there, sandwiched between a strange man and a mother holding a baby, is as jarring as it is delightful. She stands up and offers to buy champagne and caviar for the whole plane; she’s told all they have is ham wraps, cheese cubes, and Michelob Ultra. She rolls with it.
By the end of the film, you’ll find yourself surprised at how much you’re rooting for Kat, who underneath it all is the sort of hopeless romantic who says things like: “[Marrying is] like math. When you get a problem wrong, you just don’t give up on it. Keep trying until you get it right.” You’ll also find yourself remembering — especially on the heels of his recent stellar work in “Loki” — why Owen Wilson is a national treasure. He does a terrific job selling Charlie as someone who doesn’t get starstruck, doesn’t get overwhelmed, but is doing the famous person the favor by being there when she so desperately needs a normal, genuine, human interaction.
Both actors do a fine job of selling what will likely be one of the most implausible plotlines of this (or any) year, and don’t be surprised if by the end of the film you’re holding a Kleenex box. Romantic comedies were once so prevalent in Hollywood that they’d often come out opposite each other on opening weekends; now, it’s hard to remember any recent good ones. “Marry Me” feels like a throwback, the most effective romantic film to come along in quite some time.
A big part of this is the quiet moments, which also makes this an unusual film. Sure, it all concludes with a frantic race to the airport so someone can profess their love — but long after you roll your eyes at that cliche, what you’ll remember is the charming scene where Jennifer Lopez teaches the kids in Owen Wilson’s class how to overcome stage fright by memorizing dance moves. You’ll remember when they went back to the teacher’s modest home for the first time — and she sent her constantly-filming cameraman away, a big step for J. Lo’s Kat character.
The direction keeps things moving, even if some parts do just feel like a big ad for Jennifer Lopez. In one scene early on, she sings a high-energy song about being in church while wearing a flesh-colored, bejeweled leotard with strategically-placed pieces of fabric, surrounded by leggy nun back-up singers and dancers with words like “halleluiah” and “testify” written on them. At first, the instinct is to assume this is a joke, that the movie is commenting on how absurd and over-the-top this woman has become. It feels like a “Spinal Tap” performance — if, rather than heavy metal, the band had been chart-topping ’00s pop stars. But is it meant that way? If director Kat Coiro has an opinion, she doesn’t seem interested in explicitly stating it.
Although credit should be given to the film for waiting a refreshingly long time before offering up the inevitable moment where it looks like the Kat-Charlie relationship won’t work, the movie undermines itself at the end by not only putting obstacles in J. Lo’s way, but allowing her to easily swipe them away by offering large sums of money to bus drivers, people with warm coats, folks with plane tickets, etc. It’s hard to feel bad for someone with an endless supply of cash on hand; she comes across like the Bruce Wayne of romance.
Another strange choice is the employment of some sort of fish-eye lens at certain times, most noticeably in Charlie’s classroom, of all places. Not sure what that’s all about, but it’s very out of place with the rest of the film. As is Sarah Silverman’s repeated insistence that she’s “thinking about the children,” which is either a clever “Simpsons” reference or a sign that the people involved with this film need to watch more “Simpsons.”
Finally, to appreciate “Marry Me” is to savor the many, many moments when Jennifer Lopez delivers a line that feels like a winking acknowledgement of how she feels in real life; those looking for “blink if you need help” subtext will find a lot to discuss here. Lines like “Why do I always pick the wrong guy?” (Lopez has been married three times and dated others including Alex Rodriguez and most famously, Ben Affleck) or when Wilson’s character asks if it’s weird having everyone know who she is and Kat replies: “What’ s weird is that everyone in the world thinks they know who I am” blur the line further between narrative and near-documentary filmmaking.
In essence, you’re looking at Jennifer Lopez (enormous star who insists she’s a normal person deep down) playing a version of Jennifer Lopez (enormous star who insists she’s a normal person deep down) seeking a genuine relationship via a normal person deep down. The film works because rather than being starstruck, Wilson’s Charlie feels a bit bad for her; whatever your motivations, by the end of “Marry Me,” you’ll find yourself wishing both Jennifer Lopezes could find true love.