This novel documentary on gay marriage sometimes seems more a glorified wedding(s) video than a penetrating look at a divisive issue.
The subject of “Married and Counting” decide to celebrate their 25th anniversary by getting hitched in every state where gay marriage is legal. That road-trip aspect lends novelty to this latest documentary about a topic that has been (and will be) addressed by many others, though its narrow character focus makes the effort sometimes seem more a glorified wedding(s) video than a particularly penetrating look at a divisive issue. After a year on the fest circuit, Allan Piper’s feature opens June 14 on one Beverly Hills screen, though it will find its primary niche audience in home formats and possible broadcast sales.
Manhattanites Stephen Mosher and Pat Dwyer have been together since they met as college students in the mid-’80s. Mosher is a photographer and Dwyer an actor, though we don’t learn anything about their professional lives — or much else, really, beyond the fact that they love each other. With their state of residence not yet an option, and the Defense of Marriage Act excluding same-sex couples from federal recognition (with significant legal and financial consequences), they decide to get “the maximum protection we can” by marrying in those few states where (in late 2010/early 2011) it’s possible. George Takei’s narration details the legal struggles for and against gay marriage in each state they visit.
Though their first trip (to acquire licenses in nearby Vermont and New Hampshire) gets off to a bad start with some bickering, Mosher and Dwyer are affable enough company. They cry during their vows at each of what winds up being six weddings, each one themed — New Age, literary, Jewish and so forth, with one performed at an ice-skating rink.
All this is pleasant, and well crafted by director-editor Piper (making his first feature since 1997 indie comedy “Starving Artists”). But there’s not a whole lot of dramatic punch to what seems as much a camera-friendly stunt as a personal/political statement. The promise of conflict is raised when the two travel to Texas to see family members who are variably accepting of their sexual orientation, but that fizzles when both Dwyer’s brother and Mosher’s born-again father prove adept at avoiding the desired heart-to-heart conversations.
Result is diverting enough but not as forceful or insightful as some prior documentaries on the same subject. Packaging is solid, though the indie pop tunes are a tad bland. Title onscreen was “Married … and Counting.”