This Valentine’s Day, Do Something Different (Or, Stay in and Watch a Warm and Familiar Rom-Com That Will Melt Your Heart)
Heartwarming romantic comedy Marry Me will hit theaters just in time for Valentine’s Day. The flick stars rom-com veterans Jennifer Lopez and Owen Wilson, along with comedian Sarah Silverman, singer-songwriter Maluma, and the impressive young Chloe Coleman. Based on the graphic novel by Bobby Crosby, the movie is about an unlikely romance between popstar Kat Valdez (Lopez) and divorced math teacher Charlie Gilbert (Wilson). Kat is all set to marry a fellow performer named Bastian (Maluma), and their wedding will be the event of the decade. They plan to tie the knot during an extravagant concert with hundreds of fans watching in person and millions more streaming the ceremony in countries all over the world. But after a last-minute hiccup, Kat is left questioning everything. As she steps out in front of the crowd with ice-cold feet, she realizes that if she wants something different, she has to do something different. And that’s when she notices Charlie’s face in the crowd. In a moment of desperation, Kat points to Charlie and says, “I’ll marry you.”
Rom-coms are a dime a dozen, and it takes more than a great cast to make a romantic comedy memorable. While Marry Me isn’t the next Notting Hill or Moonstruck, it’s definitely a cut above the average Valentine’s Day release. So, what does a romantic comedy like Marry Me need in order to succeed? They say that if you want good luck on your wedding day, you need something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue. Similarly, a successful rom-com needs something familiar, something glamorous, something unique, and something honest.
Something familiar: Marry Me is familiar in three ways. First, it takes place in the social media age, and it’s filled with references to today’s technology and pop culture. Marry Me is set in a realistic world that mimics our own. The only difference is that COVID-19 never happened in the world of Marry Me, making it an even more attractive story to contemporary audiences. The opening sequence is a modern newsreel and social media montage that’s filled with familiar faces, including Hoda Kotb, Kelly and Ryan, and Jimmy Fallon. This clever opening makes it easy for us to believe that Kat and Charlie’s romance story could happen in real life — after all, it’s not that different from the celebrity romance stories we hear about on the news every day. A good rom-com needs to convince the audience that magical love stories and fairy-tale endings can happen in real life, and that’s exactly what Marry Me does.
Second, Marry Me is familiar because it's predictable. It tells the same story that Hollywood has been telling for years, from It Happened One Night to 27 Dresses. There’s the meet cute, the awkward beginning stage of the relationship, the lovey-dovey dating sequence, and, right on cue, the misunderstanding that puts the lovers at odds. You can figure out just about everything you need to know about the plot of Marry Me from the trailer. But just like your boyfriend’s old sweatshirt or a plate of McNuggets, the familiar plot is comforting. It’s easy to lose yourself in a fairytale that you’ve heard dozens of times, especially if it’s been updated with modern references and lingo.
Third, Charlie leads a pretty ordinary life that will feel familiar to a lot of people. Unless you’re a global pop sensation like Kat, you’ll probably relate to Charlie’s simplistic life. Every evening, he takes his grumpy dog for a walk, spends time with his daughter, puts on pajamas at 8 p.m., and watches TV or reads — an ordinary routine for an ordinary guy. Much like the news clips in the opening of the movie, Charlie’s lifestyle makes us believe that the beautiful love story unfolding in Marry Me could actually happen to ordinary people in the real world.
Something glamorous: Who wants to watch a movie that only focuses on the ordinary parts of life? Rom-coms also need a little glitz, glam, sparkle, and moonlight to help us escape from our everyday lives. Like many rom-coms, Marry Me is about an independent career woman who has everything except for true love. But Kat isn’t the typical corporate gal trying to make it in the big city. She’s an internationally recognized celebrity with a glam squad that follows her everywhere. She donates designer purses to charity, she’s sponsored by Vitamix, and her couch could pay off the average millennial’s student loans. Kat doesn’t just give us a taste of the glamorous life. She gives us a heaping spoonful. Her extravagant lifestyle contrasts beautifully with Charlie’s simple luxuries, creating a cute love story that we can all root for.
Something unique: The best rom-coms of all time have a special “it” factor that makes us want to watch them over and over again despite their predictable plots. The secret sauce to a successful rom-com usually involves a combination of unique stylistic elements and standout performances. Marry Me certainly isn’t bland or boring, but it doesn’t have the same timeless charm as classics like Breakfast at Tiffany’s or the one-liners of cult favorites like Clueless. Marry Me is more genuine than the average rom-com, but it doesn’t have that unique stylistic “it” factor that would place it in the rom-com hall of fame. However, it does have one special element that sets it apart from the rest — the original songs by Lopez and Maluma. “Marry Me” is undeniably catchy, “Church” gives Lopez the opportunity to include a fun dance number in the movie, and “Love of My Life” is bound to make it onto every girl boss’s empowerment playlist. And, despite the corny sequence in which “On My Way” rises to the top of charts, Lopez sings it so passionately that it feels like she’s singing just for you. Much like Charlie standing in the crowd of Kat Valdez fans with a giant “Marry Me” sign, the original music in Marry Me makes it stand out in a crowd of bland and ordinary rom-coms.
Something honest: It’s not easy to write a rom-com with good dialogue. The script for Marry Me is standard rom-com material, but Lopez and Wilson make it work. They’re both talented enough to make corny dialogue sound natural, turning a predictable and formulaic plot into an honest love story. The story also puts Kat and Charlie into situations that we can all relate to — who hasn’t sat on the floor in the dark and cried about letting everybody down? Lopez even makes a pampered superstar’s emotions come across as genuine, tugging at our heartstrings with every beautiful little tear (because of course, Jennifer Lopez can’t ugly cry).
With several familiar elements, a giant helping of glamor, a little something unique, and an honest love story, Marry Me falls somewhere in between classic rom-coms and forgettable Hallmark romances. It’s the ideal Valentine’s Day flick for singles and couples alike, and it pairs perfectly with everything from rosé and chocolate to White Claw and pizza.
For more information, check out the Marry Me official site.
"Our embodied spectator, possibly perverse in her fantasies and diverse in her experience, possesses agency...finally, she must now be held accountable for it."