Marry Me Kat Coiro on Embracing and Divorcing Rom-Com Conventions

Kat Coiro, director of the charming new Jennifer Lopez and Owen Wilson rom-com Marry Me, proudly embraces some of the traditions of the genre: a wild meet-cute, opposites attracting, a cheering section of quirky friends, intoxicating musical breaks. But like a good wedding, Marry Me also makes some endearing tweaks to tradition.

“I think when when people try to reinvent the wheel or kind of infuse it with this darkness and sarcasm, it doesn’t work as well,” she says on the latest MovieMaker podcast, which you can check out on Repod, Apple, Spotify,  or above.

“To me it’s a hopeful genre — it’s about finding love, and you don’t have to reinvent it. One thing with Marry Me is we leaned into all of the cliches of the rom com unabashedly and without being ashamed of it — we have people running through airports, we have people holding up signs, we’ve got references to Pretty Woman and Notting Hill, and I really loved just going: Yes. This is fully a rom-com.”

That said, the changes made by Marry Me provide some of the most resonant parts of the film. One highlight of Marry Me is Sarah Silverman as Parker, a friend of Wilson’s character, Charlie. Parker, a counselor at the New York City school where Charlie teaches math, sets the whole story in motion. When Parker’s girlfriend breaks up with her before they were supposed to attend a concert by Kat Valdez (Lopez), Parker convinces Charlie to attend instead. The single dad only agrees because his daughter is a Kat Valdez fan. At the show, he meets Kat is the unlikeliest of ways.

“Usually the wacky friend is, you know, of the same sex,” Coiro notes. “And it’s like the wacky friend of the woman. And so we made Parker be Charlie’s best friend. She is a funny comic relief, but she also looks at things in in a different way.”

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Another change: The maturity of the main couple. Though the film never overtly spells out their ages, Charlie and Kat are both middle-aged, with complicated histories and marriages behind them.

“This is not about all-consuming, you know, sacrifice-my-life-for-you kind of love,” Coiro notes. “This is about love that makes each of the people in the relationship better. And nobody is sacrificing their career or giving anything up. They’re kind of coming together in a very mature way.

“And I love their age,” she adds. “They’re 50. And I liked playing them that way. I read some review that said, ‘They’re playing people in their 40s.’ And I was like, ‘Where was that implied?’ They’re playing their age.”

Chloe Coleman, who Coiro first watched on HBO’s Big Little Lies, plays Charlie’s daughter, Lou. Coiro says her daughter spotted a cliche in an earlier version of the script that Marry Me ultimately changed.

“There was a moment in the script where the mother of Lou — Charlie’s ex — was dead. And I was kind of talking about it at home, and my daughter, who’s the same age as the Lou character, said, ‘Oh, no — not another dead mother.’ And it was a really insightful moment,” Coiro says. “I think kids are really savvy audience members. And we changed it so that they were divorced. And then the mother was still in the picture, which actually really helped. Because then Charlie could go and have these dates and weekends and it would not be like, ‘Where is his child?’ Something that drives me crazy in movies, as a parent, is, ‘How are they leaving their kids behind while they’re doing all this?'”

Kat Coiro went from acting to working behind the camera, becoming a very in-demand director of shows like Modern Family and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. She also directed the pilots of Girls5Eva, Florida Girls and the upcoming Marvel series She-Hulk, and was just named as the director of The Husband’s Secret, based on the novel by Big Little Lies author Liane Moriarty.

Marry Me is the fourth film she has directed, and in the podcast we talk about how making her own low-budget films led to some efficient filmmaking on the set of Marry Me. We also talk about why Jennifer Lopez and Owen Wilson were the only people who could have played Kat and Charlie. And we discuss the musical numbers, big and small, and the storytelling tradition she rejected for the film’s ending.

Marry Me, directed by Kat Coiro, is now in theaters and on Peacock.

Main image: Kat Coiro.