“The Marriage App” is an Argentine rom-com — in Spanish with subtitles, or dubbed into English — about the Great Mystery of Marriage, or as the writer Tom Robbins once put it, “how to make love stay.”
Rocio Blanco’s script cycles through any number of romantic comedy/marriage movie tropes in a sometimes interesting but in the end kind of heartless effort to throw “there’s an app for that” this eternal question.
It opens with a “meet cute” that leaves us with more questions than it answers. He (Juan Minujín) tears the door off her (Luisana Lopilato) new car just as she’s getting into it.
Here’s what we learn about Federico. He’s careless, disorganized and distracted — “self-absorbed.” He’s going to dental school but has no intention of buying into that “boring” line of work. He’s not only looked away and caused a crash, he’s let his insurance inspire. And he says “I swear” that he’ll do this or that to make things good, as if it’s his favorite “get out of jail free” crutch. He’s a screwup who doesn’t own-up or face the consequences of the moment.
Second worst of all, he turns this calamity into a come-on. He asks her out. Worst of all? That’s the fact that furious Belen, despite all logic, agrees to go out with him.
All we learn about her is that she’s beautiful, has enough hair for three or four women, and has a temper.
And they lived happily ever after, right?
“The Marriage App” picks up their love story 14 or so years later, when he’s a distracted, self-absorbed dentist who cancels appointments and does little or nothing around the house to make life work for her and their two children.
Belen, co-owner of an upscale toy shop, coddles their almost-ignored kids and puts up with a lazy, lying housekeeper. Because she’s learned to lower her standards, thanks to Federico, maybe?
A double date with a “troubled” couple (her sister and brother in law) who’ve brought back the romance is what tips them off about Equilibrium, a smart watch app company that monitors behavior via a lot of tech magic, and rewards relationship-positive actions — help, thoughtfulness, attention to the others’ sexual needs — with “miles.” You pile up the miles for yourself and get personal, special treats.
It’s a pretty obnoxious and obviously game-able set-up bound to be manipulated by someone who wants to “win” — i.e., get something they want such as a toy, a trip or a sexual fantasy — just by making a point of pretending to think of the other person first.
Federico starts gaming the system because he wants to go with his cooking club buddies to a competition in Cancun. Belen gets wise and games the app to fight back.
Will this marriage make it to its next 3000 mile service visit?
The premise is clever, and sets us up for a sort “The Gift of the Magi” punch line. But that’s a norteamericano short story, and I guess they don’t know O. Henry that far south. Nothing remotely as interesting is introduced to a narrative that plays increasingly like a sitcom episode padded out to 100 minutes.
Lopilato and Minujin aren’t bad actors. But they’re playing a “couple” I didn’t believe in from the start, and whose self-involved, vindictive and manipulative behavior strips any reason to root for either of them separately or both of them as a couple.
What’s more, director Sebastián De Caro and screenwriter Blanco pull their punches so that this never turns as dark and edgy as it might have become. And doing that robs “The Marriage App” of ever really making its point, if it ever had one.
They had the germ of a good idea, gimmicky as it is. They didn’t do nearly enough with it.
Rating: TV-MA, f-bombs, adult situations
Cast: Luisana Lopilato, Juan Minujín and Cristina Castaño
Credits: Directed by Sebastián De Caro, scripted by Rocío Blanco. A Netflix release.
Running time: 1:41