TL;DR: Mary, Marry Me is too distracted by hijinx to effectively deliver a lovely story between estranged sisters.
Putting real-life sisters Toni & Alex Gonzaga in the same movie is already a great idea on its own. If done right, their sisterly bond can be easily translated onscreen with no trouble, and their different comedic personas will result in hilarious interplay. Adding Sam Milby in the mix by putting him at the center of a love triangle between the two, somewhat reviving his successful love team with Toni Gonzaga during the last decade, and you have a possible crowdpleaser that’s sure to entice any Gonzaga superfan. To be fair, Mary, Marry Me knows this & tries its best to mine the talents of everyone involved & turn it into something special. However, the end result is so sloppy it ends up undermining the whole film.
Ever since they were young, Mary Jane (Toni Gonzaga) has always been protective of her younger sister Mary Anne (Alex Gonzaga). They may bicker once in a while, but they always remained close. But when both of their parents die in a car accident, Mary Jane decides that the best thing to do is to accept her aunt’s offer to petition Mary Anne to America. Neither one of them want to be separated from each other, but Mary Jane believes this will give her sister a chance at a better life. She promises her sister that she’d visit her in America, but she never did.
They would be reunited decades later, but not in the way they expected. Mary Anne is returning to the Philippines to get married in her home country, with Mary Jane – now a successful wedding planner – organizing her sister’s wedding. What Mary Jane didn’t know is Mary Anne’s fiance is Pete (Sam Milby), Mary Jane’s ex-boyfriend. Mary Jane was initially concerned about their setup, but she was reassured by both Mary Jane & Pete that this wouldn’t be a problem. However, Mary Anne still has feelings for Pete, which she knows will not only jeopardize the wedding, but her already fraught bond with her sister.
It’s a setup that could devolve into a clichéd, misogynistic mess almost immediately, in the grand tradition of bridal movies about women’s supposed inability to stay sane in a wedding & retain healthy relationships with other women. But outside of a single critical instance of slut-shaming, it mostly sidesteps this by focusing on the unresolved tension between the two sisters. It’s a smart decision, since not only is it more compelling than watching two women fight over a man, the film creates a complicated dynamic caused by their long separation that is sweet & touching.
The fact that the Gonzaga sisters are paired together helps a lot too. Each scene between them are crackling with energy, with Alex Gonzaga putting her hyperactive, heightened persona to good use, giving a much needed jolt to already funny jokes, while Toni Gonzaga acts as the straight man who can fight back with grace while befuddled at the situation she’s trapped in. Their obvious affection for each other shines throughout the film, adding a layer of poignancy even in the film’s smallest moments; like when Mary Anne & Mary Jane goofing off as they go through their old stuff.
It’s too bad it clashes with the broad romantic comedy it’s built out off. Not because it’s terrible! Some of the jokes may be stale, but they are funnier & sharper than it has any right to be, even if it can be mean-spirited at times &. The rest of the cast, including Melai Cantiveros, Bayani Agbayani, Milo Elmido Jr., & Moi Marcampo can sell any joke through their delivery alone. Sam Milby is a fantastic foil for the two women. He’s charismatic & has great chemistry with both of them, especially with Toni Gonzaga, whose time-tested chemistry is on full display here.
It just couldn’t find a way for these two tones to mesh naturally. Instead of providing a wacky backdrop for the sisters’ emotionally loaded relationship, it becomes a distraction. The movie keeps circling around to the broad hijinx afforded by its premise to setting up Pete’s romance with both Mary Anne & Pete. Those moments are delightful on its own, but it stalls an already complicated story from moving forward. It’s frustrating, since it reduces the emotional impact of the movie’s final scenes, where everything comes to a head. Mary, Marry Me may have its eyes on the altar, but the real relationship it needed to focus on isn’t on the church aisle.