Unlikely but theoretically possible, Marry Me is not to be confused with a 2011 Lucy Liu film with the same title. That said, this Marry Me doesn’t much care how familiar it looks, feels and plays. From the moment it starts to the final disappearance of the last credit, it’s recognisable right down to its genetic signature, which, put under the microscope, reads Notting Hill.
So, a Somebody Girl and a Nobody Boy plot, in other words. She’s Kat, a huge global singing megastar with the hits, the Insta profile, the entourage, and he’s Charlie, a single-dad teacher trying to coach a team of “mathletes” towards an inter-school mathematics competition.
She, much married, hasn’t yet found the happiness she’s searching for and and looks to be heading towards another conjugal car crash with her latest beau, singer and playa Bastian (Maluma – think a more street Enrique Iglesias, if you don’t know him). And he, divorced and with an antsy teenage daughter firmly convinced dad will never do another spontaneous thing in his life, is heading towards the off-ramp earlier than might be expected.
Spoiler territory has now been entered, though from the opening breath of Marry Me the route to the finish seems inevitable and well signposted. It’s funny that in the IMDb trivia section the factoids informing us that Marry Me bears similarities to Notting Hill come prefaced with a warning about the spoilerish effects of such knowledge (update: that warning is now gone, so common sense has prevailed).
Our characters introduced, we wait for the meet-cute. It comes. The tentative getting-to-know-yous where Kate and Charlie just hang out doing the sort of normal homebody stuff that is now exotic to her. The first kiss. The declaration of love. The bump in the road. The mad dash finale – in the rain, across town, however it must be engineered – leading to the…
It works. All of it. Partly because it’s all done with a light touch and with wit. And partly because, from the moment Jennifer Lopez (for it is she) and Owen Wilson (and he) first have a scene together, there’s that heady realisation that they click, and that no matter how many boxes are ticked, no matter how familiar the terrain or implausible the scenario, the magic is going to happen.
It helps that Lopez is essentially playing J-Lo, the megastar who has often nourished the notion that all she really wants to be is Jenny from the block, and that aspects of the film echo aspects of her life. It helps that Owen Wilson does dog-eared decency to world class level. And it also helps that the obligatory sidekick roles – John Bradley (Samwell Tarly in Game of Thrones) as Kat’s manager, Sarah Silverman as Charlie’s lesbian (so no threat) buddy – slot into their characters almost as if they’ve seen this movie before.
Both Lopez and Wilson are in their 50s and are probably, at some technical level, too old for this sort of thing, but they’re both wearing well and could be playing people in their early 40s. Writers John Rogers, Tami Sagher and Harper Dill – seasoned hands all – know not to mess with the formula as they adapt Bobby Crosby’s original webcomic. Director Kat Coiro ditto. No one gets in the way of the vehicle.
This is Her film, not His – reversing the Notting Hill dynamic – and it comes as no surprise to learn that Lopez is a producer. She must also have thought it a good idea to include so much music. It’s not a bad idea exactly, but the tunes are of that team-written sort – a hook, some autotune, a gangsta pose – and if you were looking to create your own boutique edit, knocking maybe 15 minutes running time off the 1hr 52 minutes, they wouldn’t be a bad place to start.
Verdict: a success. You’ve been manipulated, I’ve been manipulated, we’ve all been manipulated by Marry Me, a movie that as good as tells us what it’s going to do and then goes ahead and does it. I didn’t mention that Charlie owns a cute dog. But you already knew that.
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© Steve Morrissey 2022