Just in time for Valentine’s Day, Jennifer Lopez has blessed us with Marry Me, the latest rom-com of her decades-long career. The 52-year-old Boricua actress stars as Kat Valdez, a Latina singer still at odds with the huge extent of her fame—much like Lopez herself. She stars alongside Owen Wilson as Charlie Gilbert and Colombian singer Maluma as her fiancé, Bastian, in his debut acting role. Just as she’s getting ready to marry Bastian on stage in front of millions of people, she discovers he’s been cheating on her with her assistant through a viral video. On a whim, she picks Charlie out of the crowd and marries him instead, transforming both their lives into a media circus, a tenuous friendship, and later, an unexpected romance.
I’ll be honest, the first time I saw the trailer, I really wasn’t too sure about how well Marry Me would pan out. On the surface, the normal person-and-celebrity love story felt familiar, in the same vein as Notting Hill or even another one of Lopez’s movies, Maid in Manhattan. But here, the idea that Lopez’s character would randomly marry someone else on the spot and that it wouldn’t go immediately wrong—not to mention the way that it unfolds in the film—felt so ridiculous and unrealistic, even compared to other rom-coms.
Watching it though, I realized that the movie is well aware of its own ridiculousness. Through press conferences that Kat and Charlie attend in the aftermath of the wedding and conversations with their respective loved ones, the story spent so much time justifying its premise to the audience that I started to agree. It didn’t solve the many problems of why Kat’s manager made her go on stage even after she finds out about Bastian’s infidelity, why Charlie was the only one carrying a “Marry Me” sign in a crowd of thousands of people — considering it’s also one of her hits in the film, or why Kat’s first thought was to marry a stranger instead of ditching the show. But when have rom-coms ever leaned on real life to tell a story? That’s the magic and thrill of the genre and it’s no exception here.
But after the first hurdle of the opening twenty minutes, I was much more willing to believe their slow-burn romance despite how it started. Because as much as Kat and Charlie are a strange match, I appreciated the shyness and subtle charm with which Wilson played his character. Lopez, of course, took center stage in every scene, not just because of her beauty and charisma but also because of her signature sincerity, warmth, and humor. Because of how similar she is to her character in experiences and heritage, it felt like Kat is a character close to what JLo is like in real life — at least as far as we can tell.
Maybe that’s why the movie, despite its unbelievable premise, actually had important things to say. About the beauty of women in their 50s in industries that want them gone, women that work hard their whole lives and rarely go recognized in comparison to their male colleagues. About not letting failures define you and looking past the celebrity image to see the person inside. It’s also about keeping the faith despite the hurt and losses of the past and realizing what you want isn’t always packaged in the way you expect it.
Not to mention the subtle shout-outs to the Latinx community threaded throughout the film, like how Spanish is an integral part of Kat and Bastian’s relationship. Their pet names, their random switches between English and Spanish in conversation, the way it’s used as a secret language when they speak to each other in front of Charlie. In their duet “Marry Me”, Bastian even sings a whole verse in Spanish. It was great to see both actors honoring their roots throughout the story, especially in a genre like rom-com that’s mostly written for and about white audiences.
In this stage of J.Lo’s career, Marry Me feels more relevant than ever in conversations about women her age in the industry and what it means to be a celebrity in modern times. It’s not the most sophisticated of stories by any means. There were plot points that should’ve been introduced earlier and the ending could’ve been reworked and fleshed out because of how predictable it was going to be. But for seasoned rom-com fans, it’s sure to be an entertaining and feel-good movie, about losing love and then finding it—even in the most unexpected of ways.
Marry Me is playing in theaters and streaming on Peacock on Friday, Feb.11.