“If you sit in the question, the answer will find you.”
When a movie tells you that it’s been adapted from a graphic novel, most people would think of superheroes or monsters as being at the centre of the story; not the romantic trials of a pop megastar; but with Marry Me, adapted from a graphic novel of the same name by Bobby Crosby, that is exactly what we get; a new romcom starring J-Lo and Owen Wilson.
Pop megastar Kat Valdez (Jennifer Lopez) is due to marry her fiancé Bastian (Maluma) on stage at the end of the promotional tour for their joint track Marry Me. As she’s about to go on stage for the ceremony, she finds out Bastian was caught on camera cheating on her. She stops the show, sees local maths teacher and single father Charlie (Owen Wilson) in the crowd with a Marry Me sign, and brings him on stage to marry him, leaving his daughter Lou (Chloe Coleman) and friend Parker (Sarah Silverman) in the crowd. The act results in a media frenzy; but will Kat and Charlie forge an actual relationship as a result?
Let’s make one thing clear from the off; Marry Me is an absolutely ludicrous concept for a film, combining two different fish out of water stories with a surprisingly traditional romantic comedy. Both Kat and Charlie find themselves having to adapt to the life of the other; trying to blend their own existence with the existence of the person they have unexpectedly just found themselves marrying. Luckily, they do cover in the narrative that marrying someone you’ve just met without a proper licence is, technically, illegal; but it’s a minor point that is blown past quickly to focus on the characters themselves. Kat and Charlie are both engaging enough; Owen Wilson brings his usual laid-back attitude to Charlie with just a hint of neurosis; a kind and passionate man who wants nothing more than to have a quiet life with his daughter Lou and his ageing bulldog Tank (who is the real star of this film). Kat is the opposite; and Lopez does a great job of giving us a glimpse behind the curtain of what it takes to be a pop megastar in today’s society, with endorsement deals, constant content capture for social media, and the pressure to always appear perfect. Their lives don’t blend, but the course of the narrative is driven by them adapting to each other’s lives, with Kat turning up at Charlie’s school to meet the kids in his Mathalon club, and Charlie walking the red carpet alongside Kat for high-profile events. Wilson and Lopez don’t really feel like they have a huge amount of chemistry with each other for a lot of the film, but it may be that they’re doing a really good job of portraying the discomfort their characters have in their situation; though it’s possible I’m being generous here.
Luckily, they do have plenty of chemistry with the rest of the supporting cast; Charlie and Lou’s relationship feels incredibly realistic, as does the relationship Kat has with her manager Colin, played by John Bradley in a wonderfully subdued and empathetic performance. He’s mirrored by Kat’s high-strung assistant Melissa, played by an incredibly well-cast Michelle Buteau; whose quick delivery and natural sarcasm does wonders for her in this role. Maluma is great as Bastian, oozing sleazy charm pretty much any time he’s on screen, put also taking moments to display a more authentic emotion for Kat, even if he is still obviously a slimeball. The stand-out member of the supporting cast is Sarah Silverman as Parker; the school’s guidance counsellor and one of Charlie’s only visible friends (aside from the music teacher, Mr. Pitts, played by Stephen Wallem in a charming turn) – Silverman is tragically underused here, and she steals practically every scene she’s in, both comedically and narratively, as Parker is essentially responsible for every positive key moment in the narrative, despite not receiving any of the credit for it from any of the other characters. The kids in Charlie’s Mathalon team also put in some good performances, with each kid getting at least one good moment, be it a good joke or a narratively relevant question or line, and none of their performances feel forced in any way.
A lot of the cinematography and settings are constructed to compliment the central themes of the narrative; with the lighting and feel of the scenes set around Charlie’s life being warm and inviting, but a lot of the atmosphere in scenes set in Kat’s life being quite cold and manufactured. As Charlie and Kat grow closer this changes; one scene that came to mind, when Lou visit’s Kat’s apartment for the first time, sees a drastic lighting shift to a warm, yellow glow for the first time, signifying a more equal partnership between Kat and Charlie. Soundtracking wise, John Debney provides an effective, if slightly stereotypical romantic comedy score; but the stand-out tracks are unsurprisingly the songs written for the film and performed by Jennifer Lopez and Maluma; Church is a bop; Marry Me itself is a cracker, and On My Way is a truly heartfelt ballad; all of which could end up doing well in the actual charts.
One of the things I enjoyed most about Marry Me is actually separate from the narrative, and it relates to the casting decisions – everyone is actually age appropriate for each other, with the exception of Maluma. Owen Wilson, Jennifer Lopez and Sarah Silverman are all in their early 50’s, where Maluma’s in his late 20’s. It’s pretty refreshing to see a film where the romantic leads are actually almost the same age; where the female best friend of the central male character is almost the same age; where the female lead is dating a guy who is a couple of decades her junior. While there’s nothing wrong with someone having friends who is younger than they are, it is such a notable event for a Hollywood movie to have a couple who are close together in age, and that age is in their 50’s that I wanted to make a note of it; because it would’ve been so easy to look at a younger singer/actress to play Kat Valdez, but that’s not what happened, and the film is better for it.
Marry Me is not going to win any awards. I actually would struggle to say that this is a good movie in terms of narrative quality or potential impact on cinema; but I went to see it with my fiancé, and I had a really nice time seeing it. It’s a very silly story portrayed quite convincingly by experienced leads, a great supporting cast and it has a lot of charm and fun at its core. You could do worse than see this film.
Dave McGuckin is a theatre graduate, bar manager, former comedian and eternal film lover from Northern Ireland, now living in Canada. He began writing film reviews in 2016 for The Grade and then Great Central, both based in Leicester, England.
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