Review: Marry Me Proposes a RomCom With Plenty of Product Placement but Zero Chemistry

Sometimes film reviews are hard to write. Especially, at least for me, reviews for films I don’t have strong feelings about one way or another. Finding ways to say, “Meh, it’s fine,” can be harder than you think! Then there are films like Marry Me, a disaster of a romcom that makes my job relatively easy. If one-line reviews were acceptable (perhaps only on Letterboxd?), mine would simply be: go watch Notting Hill instead.

Indeed, that turn-of-the-millennium romantic comedy written by king of the genre Richard Curtis (who shares his throne with Queen Nancy Meyers) does everything Marry Me is trying to do and does it better and to far greater emotional effect. From a contrived script to a complete lack of character depth, the film’s biggest sin is perhaps the complete lack of chemistry between stars Jennifer Lopez and Owen Wilson. Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant they are not.

But, you may be saying, it’s not fair to compare one film to another so unilaterally! Each film should be critiqued in its own right! Oh, ok…let’s do that.

Based on a graphic novel by Bobby Crosby, it took three screenwriters to adapt Marry Me: John Rogers, Tami Sagher and Harper Dill, a trio who have all spent most of their careers in television. Not that that immediately precludes someone from making the leap into feature-length films, but one wonders if the narrative here might’ve been better served as a one-off indie series, a la Lovesick or Home for Christmas. But I digress. Director Kat Coiro, who isn’t new to filmmaking, does her level best to make something out of the overworked script in a setting that feels like they spent most of their budget on casting JLo and designing her costumes. The pivotal opening scene, where her Kat meets Wilson’s Charlie at a massive concert event feels like it was filmed at the Chicago Theatre or someplace else just as small.

And about that scene, arguably the film’s most important moment, the one we must believe with every ounce in our being in order to be able to stomach any of what’s to come after it. Kat, a massive superstar, is set to marry her performing (and life) partner, Bastian (Maluma), in front of millions of people as a sort of promotional stunt (that’s also very real) for their new single, conveniently titled “Marry Me.” (The song itself is a catchy little ditty, perhaps the best thing about the film.) Just as she’s about to take the stage, Kat learns that rascal Bastian has been messing around with her assistant behind her back, and in a slow-motion reaction shot, we infer that this mogul, this Beyoncé-level (or, I suppose, JLo-level) megastar is human just like us, and her heart is broken. Um, ok. It gets worse, as she silences her band and calls for the house lights to be brought up so she can expound on the uncertainty of love, what does any of it matter anyway, might as well just marry somebody, right?

Oh, look: there’s bumbling Charlie, at the concert with his lesbian colleague Parker (Sarah Silverman), who was supposed to bring her girlfriend and her girlfriend’s ex (oh, lesbians!), but they’ve now broken up so Charlie and his daughter, Lou (Chloe Coleman), get the tickets! Here, Dad, hold this “Marry Me?” sign so we can take selfies. And what does Kat see just as she’s opining about the meaningless of marriage? Yes, Charlie’s sign. And yes, it all leads to him up on stage, exchanging vows with Kat thinking he’s just going along with a bit. Of course, it’s not “just a bit,” and the rest of the film is a painful exercise in predictability as the two agree to keep up the façade for the press, then really get to know (and like) each other, then get torn apart by unexpected circumstances, then…well, you can see where this is going.

Somewhere in here, there’s a welcome update to the fish-out-of-water, everyman-falls-in-love-with-a-celebrity fairy tale, but even Lopez and Wilson can’t seem to be convinced of their connection to each other. Their embraces look like two robots programmed to put their arms around each other, their kisses cringe-worthy and awkward. It’s all the more disappointing because these two actors are, at least independently, more than capable of romantic charm (see: Out of Sight (her) and Midnight in Paris (him)). At no point in Marry Me does it make sense that these two would develop feelings for the other; at one point they do finally spend the night together, but we both see none of it and don’t believe it anyway (and I nearly expected Kat, dressed in Charlie’s oversized button-down shirt the next morning, to open the flat door to a wall of pesky paparazzi).

There is much more that disappoints in Marry Me, not the least of which is its brazen and excessive product placement, from Kat doing an actual spot for the super-blender VitaMix at one point to only slightly more subtle references to “Hey, Google,” and more. Sure, it’s expensive to put JLo in a movie these days, but have some standards, people. The film does try to have something to say about our content-driven culture (a cameraman follows Kat’s every move, in order to “bank” footage for her web series—look at them, using the lingo!), but any ruminating the characters do on the media machine that is Kat’s life, or Charlie’s canyon-sized distance from that type of existence, is woefully lost in a film that never finds the kind of spark essential to romcoms, the first step to a blazing hot romance on screen or off.

Marry Me is now in theaters and streaming on Peacock.

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Lisa Trifone

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