Park City, Utah's acclaimed Slamdance Film Festival will host the world premiere of Steve Markle's poignant yet laugh out loud funny documentary Shoot to Marry when the fest kicks off later this month on January 24th with the doc scheduled for two screenings - Sunday, January 26th at 3:30 pm inside the Ballroom at Treasure Mountain Inn and Wednesday, January 29th at 4:15 pm inside Treasure Mountain's Gallery.
Northern Banner Releasing has already acquired Canadian distribution rights for the film that is screening as part of Slamdance's Breakouts Selection, which showcases films by feature directors who demonstrate a determined vision of filmmaking that is instinctively becoming their own.
Shoot to Marry is Markle's long-awaited follow-up to Markle's cult classic Camp Hollywood. Five years in the making, Shoot to Marry finds Markle lost in the throes of a devastating break-up after a "Yes!" to a marriage proposal quickly becomes a "No!" and the one thing the 42-year-old Markle has always wanted, a marriage that resembles the 54-year strong marriage of his parents, seems completely out of reach. After six months of grieving, he heads to L.A. to shoot a doc about a gifted artist and former crush. In the process, he realizes this indescribable doc is the perfect way to meet women and he begins a cross-country journey to make a documentary he can barely describe while hopefully meeting the woman of his dreams.
From the outset, Shoot to Marry sounds like yet another one of those rom-com gimmicky docs that will make you laugh but really has no other reason for existing. You'll find yourself amazed when you reach the end of the 74-minute feature doc and realize that you've laughed a lot, cried a lot, and likely reflected on your own attitudes about marriage, relationships, loss, grief, and more.
It was an interesting experience sitting here watching the quirky yet endearing Markle's achingly funny vulnerability in Shoot to Marry, a viewing that came less than a month after a hospitalization claimed my left leg above the knee and leaves me off work for a few weeks as I recover, build strength, and learn how to do things that I knew how to do just a few weeks ago. While I was already a paraplegic/double below-knee amputee with spina bifida, losing a limb above the knee is particularly devastating and impactful in the areas of self-care, mobility, and, if I'm being incredibly honest, self-image. As I'm still stuck at home, all these questions slosh around my brain...
Can I still work?
Will I still be able to drive?
Can I still be loved?
Indeed, I really clicked with Markle and his meandering emotions and insecurities and not so healthy choices as he wanders his way through the creation of a documentary that seems way more an exercise in psychodrama (psycho-comedy?) than it does an actually legit cinematic effort.
Yet, you never stop believing in Markle and you never stop hoping that he'll somehow find his way through the mire and the muck of complicated grief and a search that may not be what he thinks it's about.
The humor in Shoot to Marry comes largely from Markle himself and from the incredible assortment of women that he meets along the way ranging from a firefighter to a plastic surgeon, an anti-abortion activist to a rabbi, a dominatrix to an assortment of artists and so on. These women are, almost without exception, incredibly remarkable women who are intelligent, gifted, open and saying so incredibly much that Markle doesn't quite "get" right away. In many ways, he's so consumed by the idea of a relationship that he's completely unable to actually "be" in a relationship.
At times, it's downright painful to watch.
Shoot to Marry becomes something special, a poignancy and wonder and honesty arrives on the big screen and I'd dare say it's almost a surprise by the time it happens. It could be said, I suppose, that complicated grief becomes a little less complicated. It could also be said that Markle's endearing, aching openness opens just a bit wider and he finally begins to see a picture that's bigger than himself.
You could say a lot of things, really.
It's pretty remarkable to watch happen.
While it may be tempting to give sway to your logical brain that tells you "Well yeah, but he selected these women for their entertainment value," there's something else going on here that transcends the art of filmmaking and becomes something resembling a grand human experience.
Is there intent to it? Of course.
Does it ever feel manipulative? Surprisingly, no.
Markle has always been a performer and filmmaker able to weave together honest humanity and humor as evidenced by his work on Camp Hollywood and as the star of the FX series Testees. With Shoot to Marry, Markle finds the humor in heartbreak but he also finds the heart in heartbreak. Shoot to Marry works precisely because it feels honest and feels true and also happens to be incredibly funny. Markle lives out for all of us to see what it looks like for many of us after we break-up, struggle to move on, get stuck in our grief, and then try to build a safe world around us until we're ready to move on and try again.
Truly, it's a beautiful thing to see.
A 54-year marriage is a beautiful thing, but it's not what we all get. Love looks different for all of us and that's a lesson that feels closer to sinking in by the time Markle wraps up his film and we're done laughing and smiling and maybe even crying a bit.
By the end of Shoot to Marry, I stopped worrying that a woman was going to look at my wonderfully unique body and think it's just a little too weird and I started celebrating the idea that every moment of love I give and receive is a moment I'd never had before and that's pretty special.
Shoot to Marry? It's also a pretty special film about love and all the weird shit that gets us there. Check it out at Slamdance for yourself or wait for it at a fest near you. Like love, Shoot to Marry is worth the wait.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic