• Thu. Jun 30th, 2022

“Marry me” is less than the sum of its parts

ByRandall B. Phelps

Feb 10, 2022

The sequel to this moment features a potentially funny setup as deflated lover Bastian is jealous of Gilbert and tries to joke about the gringo nobody, but he hesitantly calls him “albino.” And whether it’s because of the performances or the writing, the moment promises to be banally melodramatic.

Kat’s manager brings up an interesting point, saying she can’t lose control of her narrative because she’s “a 35-year-old north woman in an ageist industry.” It’s an ingenious understatement for fifty, but the film never really explores this potential theme. It feels less like a celebration or acknowledgment of age than an attempt to deal with it. (Then again, transcending age is a big part of Lopez’s appeal.)

Instead, Kat spins the impromptu wedding by telling reporters she’s flipping the script on heterosexual marriage in a supposed girl-on-girl moment. “We pick the guy, we keep our name and let them earn the right to stay,” she practically applauds.

But the story lacks the confidence to disrupt early romantic comedy conventions even as it talks about breaking them. Kat and Charlie’s courtship is a typical romance that attracts opposites, with tropes about authenticity — he’s not into social media, she is — and he’s sort of an unromantic schlub that tells him she’s “ready to go” even without hair extensions as she believes in love even after three marriages.

There’s a moment between them that feels genuine when she explains that Bastian believed in her talent even though the industry often didn’t give her credit despite her fame and success. It resonates with Lopez’s sense of not being part of Hollywood’s white girl club. But as a root moment for the underdog, it’s not Made in Manhattan.

It’s telling that the lines come as she defends Bastian, rather than connecting with Gilbert, who is actually the movie’s underdog, a lowly teacher whose wife dumped him. There’s more sparkle in Wilson’s eye-rolling scenes on her lesbian best friend (played by Sarah Silverman in one of the only fun roles) than with Kat. And the script seems less interested in their relationship than in keeping Bastian alive or not.

The great anticlimactic denouement occurs on a Jimmy Fallon set. The talk show’s epiphany comes less as a fun commentary on or use of celebrity and more as part of the film’s rather naive product placements for Vitamix, Guess, Coach and, haphazardly, wix.com. Director Kat Coiro has worked on TV shows including Girls5Eva before, but this is his first movie, and those kind of missed opportunities feel like a lack of instinct for storytelling or drama.

At times, the film itself feels like product placement for Lopez and Maluma themselves, and I wish it had leaned into it more openly. Turning to her usual production bubble hasn’t helped Lopez stick to her usual instincts about what makes her fame interesting or help her play against type like she did in Hustlers.

In a recent Rolling Stone profile, Lopez admitted that sometimes she doesn’t know when to quit working out. “‘Oh, maybe I should do this because if I don’t people won’t see me for a while,'” she explained of her thought process. “So you’re just, ‘I shouldn’t have done that. It was a stupid decision. It didn’t go over well. Marry me is not quite a mess to regret. But to quote “Church,” it could be a sign of having more faith while waiting for inspiration. ●