If falling in love was simple, there’d be no need for romantic comedies. Relationships are complicated, and rom coms can teach us the importance of confessing love to someone who’s about to board a plane or train, how burning hatred can morph into red hot passion and how to make out in the rain.
All are valuable lessons for the romantically challenged. Thanks to lovey-dovey pioneers like Drew Barrymore, Kathryn Heigl and Jennifer Lopez, the movies taught us how to hurdle any romantic roadblock.
Lopez returns with more life and love lessons after a twelve-year rom com sabbatical in “Marry Me,” a musical riff on “Notting Hill,” in theatres just in time for Valentine’s Day.
Lopez plays her fictionalized doppelgänger, a pop superstar named Kat Valdez. She’s a chart topper, a fashion plate, a staple on social media and advertising campaigns.
In other words, she’s Jennifer Lopez, except that everyone calls her Kat.
Kat is engaged to singer Bastian (Maluma), because who is one pop star supposed to marry except another pop star? Their nuptials will happen on-stage and on-line in front of an estimated 20 million people. Seconds before they are to sing their new hit single “Marry Me” and exchange “I dos,” Kat discovers Bastian has been having an affair with her assistant.
Cue the tearful, mascara smearing speech about true love and living the “truth behind the headlines.” The wedding is off. Or is it? In the audience is Charlie (Owen Wilson), single father and math teacher. He’s a fish out of water who doesn’t know Kat’s music and is only there because his co-worker Parker (a wisecracking Sarah Silverman) had extra tickets for him and his daughter (Chloe Coleman).
From the stage Kat notices the square-peg Charlie because he’s holding a giant sign Parker brought along that reads “Marry Me.” In what could be the ultimate “meet cute” in rom com history, she takes the message literally, invites Charlie to the stage and before you can say “Holy Publicity Stunt Batman!” they are pronounced husband and wife.
“I was impulsive. Without a plan,” Kat later says at a press conference. “But look where my plans got me.”
You know the rest.
Rom coms are not about the destination, they are all about the journey, the happily ever after and “Marry Me” is a good ride. It would be easy to see this as a cynical package of story and product placement for the soundtrack album, but there is nothing cynical about the movie. Lopez embraces the form, especially the fantasy, 21st century fairy tale aspect, to create a romance so light and frothy it threatens to float away into the clouds. It’s an old school rom com that works because of the chemistry between Lopez and Wilson. The spark between them and the sheer weight of the silly premise keeps the movie earthbound.
“Marry Me” works because it understands what it is, an old-fashioned rom com with a 21st century gloss. It’s a fashion show with a few laughs. An issue of “Architectural Digest” style life-style porn with romance and a musical with love lessons about not judging a book by its cover, of female empowerment and the grand gesture of renting out the entirety of Coney Island for a birthday celebration. As Parker says, “This is the most unbelievable thing that could happen in life,” but this isn’t life, it’s a rom com.