J. Lo and Owen Wilson’s Charismatic Equality is celebrated in “Marry Me.”
Movie star magnetism is put on show in “Marry Me,” a new, retro-style romantic comedy, even if streaming has diminished its force. The film’s two enduring stars, Jennifer Lopez and Owen Wilson, rose to stardom on the big screen, and in today’s world of I.P.-driven blockbusters, they appear to be virtual relics of old Hollywood splendor. In addition, the film’s plot twists the whole concept of stardom. While praising its leading performers, Kat Coiro’s film “Marry Me” also hints at the significance and substance that have been imbued into their fame as actors.
An international pop-music star known as Kat Valdez, J. Lo portrays Kat Valdez. Currently the number one hit single in the country, “Marry Me,” she is engaged to another pop sensation, Bastian (Maluma), and plans to tie the knot live onstage at a New York concert in the near future. Despite the fact that the incident has become a hot topic on talk programs and the media, Charlie Gilbert (Wilson), a dedicated math teacher in a Brooklyn middle school with a twelve-year-old daughter named Lou, chooses to ignore it all (Chloe Coleman). When Charlie isn’t on social media, he has no idea how the celebrities of the world are faring. Although Parker (Sarah Silverman), a guidance counselor, is tuned in, she offers Charlie and Lou the opportunity to accompany her at the event because she has three tickets in hand and two of them are going unused.
A video reveals that Bastian is having an affair with one of Kat’s assistants just before the showtime. There are no surprises for the audience or Kat’s crew (including her devoted manager Colin, played by the subtle and quiet John Bradley, who also stars in “Moonfall”). During her first appearance on stage, she bursts into tears and halts the music, revealing her profound disappointment. In order to record the moment on camera, Parker brought along a hand-drawn sign that reads, “Marry Me.” When Kat sees the sign, she says yes and calls Charlie to the stage where they marry in the flashy and spectacular ceremony that was planned for her and Bastian. Parker and Lou, as well as the rest of the cheering throng, encourage him to go for it despite his reservations.
Kat intends to take advantage of the event for as long as possible before firing Charlie a few months later in a businesslike manner. When they get to know each other and participate in each other’s lives in a meaningful way, the merely symbolic union reveals to be profoundly significant for both of them. As soon as Charlie and Kat exit the stage entrance, they are greeted by a flash mob of paparazzi. Kat and Charlie’s appearance on the “Today” show will not detract from Charlie’s duties as a math coach at the high school, and he intends to keep the media sensationalism at bay. The good thing about him, though, is that he is a decent human being who is aware of his obligations (specifically, being with Kat in public) and who is sensitive enough to see that Kat is in actual trouble and needs the good vibrations that this new notoriety will bring. With all the press conferences, TV interviews, and photo ops that come along with the newfound fame, he cheerfully participates in them all, even the constant presence of her personal camera operator (played by Khalil Middleton, who’s filming her life for future commercial self-exploitation).
While on the tour, Charlie proves to be a kind and funny companion to Kat, and the two develop a close friendship even as he unloads his judgments on her life as a “sycophant” surrounded by “handlers and staff” who take on all of her responsibilities while denying her what he calls “self-sufficiency.” This movie is based on a comic book written by Bobby Crosby, and the script was written by Harper Dill, John Rogers and Tami Sagher. It’s evident that Charlie has a lot to learn from Kat’s life, which comes from a humble beginning.
Charlie’s life story has a larger impact on the action than Kat’s does, which is a weakness in the film.) As the fictitious union blossoms into a real one, Kat becomes more and more involved in the math teacher’s day-to-day activities, and Charlie begins to understand that Kat’s media empire is a substantial business that she has established from the ground up. Her fame is not based solely on her outward attractiveness, but on a rock-solid foundation of talent and savvy as a singer, lyricist, and actor (her press conferences are feats of improvised genius in itself).
In “Marry Me,” Jennifer Lopez plays a music star who performs a variety of songs in a variety of settings, from massively staged concert scenes to solitary moments at her piano, to recording studio sessions and spontaneous appearances in school settings, creating a virtual musical that pulsates with the performer’s authentic power and creative energy. At the same time, she’s equally convincing as someone who’s an anomaly in her own right, whose unbridled desire to dominate the world around her is reflected in the way she lives and works. Stardom and life are interwoven in the story of a star whose intense awareness of her public image risks separating herself from a feeling of inner selfhood.
There’s pathos in that. To keep the pathos in check, we have the antithesis: Charlie, a math teacher, is also a star in his own right. He is charismatic in his field and compassionate and wise in private, but he is largely overlooked and taken for granted even within the scope of his personal relationships. It takes a star like Wilson to bring the overlooked greatness of a private citizen like Charlie to the foreground.
Melodrama is the awareness that ordinary people’s daily lives are filled with the vast passions and conflicts of tragedy, and comedy is simply a turn of the screw from melodrama. To know that “Marry Me” is being sold as an overtly rom-com is to know that the conflicts implied beneath the surface remain unexplored; if anything, the film’s premise is that Kat and Charlie’s emotional and charismatic equivalence is the film’s underlying theme—and it’s an overtly political one at that. (Moviegoers are more likely to see a star teacher than a pop singer in the theater.) Aside from the obvious chemistry between Lopez and Wilson, the film’s other standouts include the sensitive intensity of Lopez’s performance as Kat and Wilson’s intellectual sarcasm as a screenwriter.
However, he co-wrote Wes Anderson’s first three films, which is no little accomplishment. To understand Wilson’s sarcasm, one must understand the intensity of earnestness that permeates his wry and reserved demeanor. As a writer, Wilson appears to come up with his lines from within. In spite of its obviousness, “Marry Meperformers “nevertheless manages to surprise us with their performances, whether it’s in the broad strokes of action or in the intimate details of the dialogue.