‘Marry Me’ Fumbles The Romantic Comedy Revival

Image from Marry Me. Jennifer Lopez and Owen Wilson stand facing each other - J-Lo is looking stunning in a gorgeous dress and bejeweled veil.
Universal Pictures

It’s no surprise the amount of hype that surrounded the run-up to the premiere of Marry Me. The early 00s heyday of mainstream romantic comedies that wholly embrace their place in the genre (27 Dresses, What’s Your Number, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days) has long gone, and there’s been a significant void that hasn’t been filled.

Enter Marry Me, which hopes to bring audiences back to the cinema with a by-the-books tale of boy-meets-girl. Owen Wilson’s boring, long-divorced maths teacher Charlie is facing a crisis–his daughter thinks he’s boring. Determined to improve his standing, he takes her to a concert along with his best friend Parker (Sarah Silverman, giving it her all in the gay best friend role). At this concert, unlucky-in-love superstar Kat (Jennifer Lopez) is getting married on stage to her personality vacuum of a boyfriend, Bastian (Maluma).

Things, as they often do, go wrong, and Charlie is plucked from the crowd to marry a woman he’d never even heard of before, in front of 20 million people. For Kat to keep some of her dignity, and on the promise of a large cheque for his school, he agrees to keep the pretense of their relationship going, and so the two start to embrace each others’ lives.

Universal Pictures

Thematically, Marry Me hits all the genre conventions it needs to; an unlikely meeting between two people who could not be more different, getting to know each other slowly, despite the obstacles, these differences colliding and eventually causing conflict, and finally resolution. Unfortunately, Lopez and Wilson’s complete lack of chemistry makes the whole thing feel more like a movement towards the inevitable rather than a fun, heartwarming journey into a sweeping romance.

Moments that should be fun, flirty moments just fall flat–strangely redundant between the two –when Kat playfully feeds him an apple after they’ve spent the night together, a call back to an earlier scene, however, it plays more like someone nervously approaching a horse for the first time. She’s heard that teachers, like horses, like apples, so just she shoves it at his mouth.

It is the supporting cast who shine, most notably, Michelle Buteau as Melissa, who as Kat’s assistant is permanently exhausted with Charlie and his various shenanigans, greeting him at every opportunity with an expression of a woman who semi-seriously hates her job. John Bradley – loyal, sweet Sam Tarly of Game of Thrones – plays Kat’s manager Collin, and it is the little interpersonal moments between him and Lopez where any emotion is allowed to emerge in a small, tender scene between the two of them.

In what could have been the start of something special, Marry Me tries to recreate the weaker elements of the great romantic comedy that have gone before, right down to the dated emphasis on “girl power”.

Marry Me is in cinemas and on Peacock.

by Rose Dymock

Rose is a film critic , who graduated from the University of Liverpool with an MRes in Film Studies. She loves thrillers, Al Pacino, and multilingual cinema and she’s not entirely sure if she’s a millennial.

Find her on twitter, and find more of her work at https://rosedymock.contently.com

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