A recent New York Times profile about Jennifer Lopez pegged to her upcoming rom-com Marry Me describes the film’s existence as, “A bet that she can revive a genre that’s been left for dead by both the studio system and the rom-com stars of the past.” They lost that bet.
The film, which is loosely based on a webcomic of the same name, is about Kat Valdez (Lopez) — an international pop sensation (sound familiar?) who is set to marry her boyfriend Bastian (Maluma) on stage in front of millions of people while they sing their hit duet “Marry Me.” In the crowd is a normal divorced dad, Charlie Gilbert (Owen Wilson) who is at the concert with his coworker and friend Parker (Sarah Silverman) and his daughter. When Kat finds out Bastian had been cheating on her with her assistant, she instead picks Charlie out of the crowd and, to fulfill the promise of on-stage nuptials, marries him. Rather than immediately divorcing him, or abandoning the gimmick, Kat convinces her team to allow her to get to know Charlie because it would prove that she is willing to take chances. Actually, the reason why she goes through with it is never really clear.
The concept is something a pop star at her peak would never in a million years do. And that’s fine, because the suspension of disbelief that love is possible in even the most stupid circumstances is what makes romantic comedies so great. That’s why something like Notting Hill works — both stars have the magnetism to make the target audience, single women like me, believe in the most unlikely type of love.
Instead of properly feeding us the lie, Marry Me actively works against it. Both Charlie and Kat are awful people who should not be together. Charlie is a guy whose only characteristic is that he is a boring math teacher who has a flip phone. He knows nothing about Kat, music, pop culture or anything beyond numbers. His reason for going through with the whole thing is that he wants to fund his school’s math club. It is hard to understand why even a normal woman would love him. At one point, he is shocked by his sudden fame — the film hints that he does not even know what going viral means. This is meant to be charming — he’s so pure! So untouched by the grubby concerns of modern life! — but really just makes him seem very annoying to be around.
He follows Kat as she goes about her daily life, surrounded by people constantly documenting her every move on Instagram live. In the world of Marry Me, everyone is on Instagram live all the time. Every scene, someone is going on Instagram live to thousands upon thousands of viewers watching. (Parker, who is merely a guidance counselor racks in thousands of views when she is on Instagram live).
Of course, Charlie and Kat slowly fall in love. Charlie has a lot to teach Kat about being alone, as in, without her managers and assistants and camera crew. In one of the most baffling scenes I have witnessed in years — Kat pulls an extension out of the back of her head and drops it on the ground. Charlie then stomps on it, saying “I killed it.” To Charlie, this is a joke to get into a more serious conversation, “You’re beautiful without all that.”
It’s a line meant to be fun and romantic that is actually quite insulting. Sort of like Marry Me. If this is the best Hollywood can offer to revive the rom-com, perhaps it should stay dead.