I lost a bet. Again. For all the bets on the Oscars, Best Picture now feels somehow redundant, doesn’t it? Like it was a small award won by a small but charming movie, a quaint moment of a ridiculous ceremony that was wretched for innumerable reasons — not just that one. Remember a short (or maybe long) few years ago when Jennifer Lopez wasn’t nominated for 2019’s Hustlers and it felt like a big snub? Again, a quaint artifact of a memory. Hardly matters at all. But that film’s positioning seemed to suggest something and, maybe, if it had received more than critical approval and an extra nod at the Oscars, it would’ve meant the actress, who can be quite good it seemed like, would also find meatier, meaningful roles.
But how quickly Lopez has retreated back to low-level rom com work like 2003’s cursed Gigli. It’s immaterial but she’s also back with co-star and one who got away Ben Affleck. And both have awkward romance movies coming out right now (presumably Affleck’s movie is more awkward, a sex thriller with his now-ex Ana De Armas without much sex or thrills; just sexual tension). Marry Me is also rough going. It is par for the course for modern romance but that’s no good thing. All it has is one idea (and Jennifer Lopez, still graceful and beautiful) but failing that, it’s slight, told without chemistry or meaningful development, and doesn’t mean anything at all.
There’s a whole league of romance movies just like this one. Holding the keys to how this sort of story can develop is a classic movie like An Affair to Remember (1957), wherein Cary Grant, a magnificent playboy who has married well falls in love with Deborah Kerr, who also has a devoted partner but their relationship has no spark. It’s useful for study because it sits with its characters. It does not lump exposition onto their wants and needs. Instead, there are quiet moments by a piano or in a charming little villa in the French Rivera. There are people in good romance movies. They mean something, both on their own, and as a couple. In order to buy into a good romance we must also buy into the participants, both to understand and to want something for them.
Marry Me has one idea. It’s based on a web comic about a singer who is about to get engaged while performing her new hit song “Marry Me”. This guy and his kid attend her show and the guy is left with a “Marry Me” sign. And, well, the wedding doesn’t go off without a hitch (metaphorically speaking) and she instead focuses in on this guy with a sign and marries him. The comic is super awkward and weird and the movie about it is super tame and pedestrian. The characters of Jennifer Lopez and Owen Wilson fall in love and everything about their movies you’ve seen before and how they are in them ought to fill in the rest. It’s dire, in the lack of actual stakes, and works out exactly as you think it would. The pitch of the movie ends up being just another Meet Cute without any further driving purpose and while one character is a pop star and the other is a math teacher, their star-crossed paths are less than believable. They have so little for each other that it doesn’t matter when they explore facets of their partner’s lives. They are just there for something they aren’t used to and it doesn’t mean anything.
Jennifer Lopez continues to be an alluring presence on-screen. There’s lots of her in various degrees of looking fabulous at 52. There isn’t much for Owen Wilson to do and he isn’t up for much but to be a father and an accidental romantic foil for Lopez. If anything at all could develop between them it would be a better movie. If the film did not forget its high concept, or what it exactly wants to do with it, it could also reach some greater degree of meaning. As it stands, it is a platform for a few new Lopez songs (not for nothing, she doesn’t often release new songs anymore) and for a steady, basic quinquagenarian romance that may do just what Peacock’s new streaming platform needs it to do and nothing else.
The moral of the story is that if you have to keep losing bets, have the decency to start betting with stakes on some particularly scorn-worthy movies, or ones that register as anything at all. Marry Me is just further filler in a world full of bland romantic movies that doesn’t achieve romance, comedy, or even airy stream-worthy amusement. There’s nothing here except another platform for Lopez. There are so many romantic movies to choose from that besides the empty diversion for the service — and surely it fulfils that most simple of functions — there’s nothing here warranting even a proposal for an evening watch.