Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Movie Review - Saving Marriage


“Saving Marriage” sounds like another name for the No on Prop 8 campaign – the effort to save gay marriage in California from the reactionary forces across the country that are trying to snatch back this right, granted just months ago by the state Supreme Court. 

That’s  a Republican-dominated court, by the way, and the majority opinion was a 121-page scholarly document written by a Republican appointee.  So much for the canard that unthinking, knee-jerk activist judges (impliedly, Democrats) are on a mission to thwart the people’s will.

It’s a mixed time for gay marriage.  On the one hand, the California decision was a stirring victory and, what’s more, Connecticut just became the third state to legalize same-sex marriage, in a state Supreme Court decision released only days ago.  On the other hand, polls show Prop 8 is winning, probably due in part to the huge fundraising advantage the anti-gay forces possess, which allows them to run many more TV ads.  Passage would be an enormous setback.

Into this charged environment comes “Saving Marriage,” which is indeed a movie, not a nom d’campaign.  Thus, it’s not about the California campaign or the Connecticut decision.  Rather, it’s a documentary about the first state that legalized gay marriage – Massachusetts, five years ago.  There too, it was a decision by the state Supreme Court (called the Supreme Judicial Court, or SJC, in Massachusetts) that set the ball rolling.  As in California, there was much joy when the decision came down.

But what happened next was nail-biting:  two separate votes in the state legislature, spaced 18 months apart, that could have led to a ballot referendum to undo the SJC decision.  You already know the ending:  the anti-marriage effort failed, and gay marriage remains legal in Massachusetts. 

Yet, there’s significant drama in the film, due to the convoluted legislative procedure, and perhaps even more to the skill of the filmmakers – directors Mike Roth and John Henning, and editor Paula Gauthier.  By following several couples, politicians and activists throughout the process, the filmmakers focus on the very human meaning of what might otherwise be a series of parliamentary procedures.  For its part, the procedural stuff is rendered clearly and with little fuss by minimally-animated diagrams.

So – drama on-screen … and tears in the audience.  Although not a weepie, this is a moving film and an excellent job.  It played film festivals last year and is now in city by city release, courtesy of Regent Releasing.  See it, but skip the popcorn and make a donation to No on 8 instead.  That way, maybe we’ll get to see a sequel – the story of how same-sex marriage in California was saved from the clutches of its opponents.

90 mins., color, 1.33 aspect ratio, digital.  Rated PG-13 for brief strong language.

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