Shoot to Marry
(Canada, 70 min.)
Dir. Steve Markle
“Real life is no romantic comedy,” says director Steve Markle in Shoot to Marry. “It’s a Stephen King movie.”
Markle uses his camera to play the dating game in Shoot to Marry. This shoestring film about the director’s romantic foibles might indeed have a higher ick factor than most Stephen novels do. The ruse of the film is that the director, 42-years-old and hopelessly single after his ex-girlfriend declined his proposal, endeavours to find his perfect match. Markle tries online dating, hires a matchmaker, visits a sex club, and hits on random women. None of his efforts proves viable, but a lightbulb goes off when one of his female friends consents to participate in a documentary under the premise that it’s about her art.
Markle therefore goes on the hunt and uses his documentary to meet women. He has ample nerve, cold calling a colourful range of characters to discuss their love lives and the complications of the dating game in 2020. Markel interviews a pilot, a lumberjack, his third grade crush, and a high-priced sex worker who finds such a powerful connection with Markle that she supposedly causes a blackout. It’s all very droll in the manner of cringe-worthy below-the-belt comedy. Markle isn’t afraid to playful the dweeb or sad sack, evoking a Woody Allen-esque navel-gazer in his search for an impossibly perfect woman.
Many of these interviews, however, don’t pay much respect to the women who donate their time. Markle overrides their responses with internal monologues played in voiceover. He often spends much of the conversations—at least from what appears in the film—talking about himself rather than letting the women speak. The novelty of Shoot to Marry’s dating game premise wears thin when it becomes clear that Markle doesn’t learn from the process and doesn’t especially seem interested in growing as a person. Audiences looking for deeper thoughts on whether marriage is the ideal “happily ever after” aren’t going to find it here.
Similarly, few of the women in Shoot to Marry resemble real people. Markle is ultimately casting a movie, rather than searching for viable matches. The women he interviewees are generally a range of eccentrics presented in extreme scenarios. Some are artistic types looking for a bit of exposure, like a kooky hat maker named Heidi Lee that Markle meets in New York. She models all sorts of crazy hats, and is a comedic highlight of the film, but her extended presence in the film rings false. When she invites Markle back to New York for a photo shoot that has nothing to do with his documentary, Shoot to Marry struggles to find much purpose beyond giving the director something to do.
The bulk of Markle’s footage ostensibly comes from 2014 to 2015 given the “five years later” postscript that closes the film. A lot has passed in the interim in which Markle has found love and an ending for his movie. Shoot to Marry might have seemed like a great idea in 2015, but despite Markle’s best efforts to make himself the punchline of his own jokes, the film has a tone-deaf representation of women. Markle acknowledges that his conceit is problematic, and that trying to score a wife by making a documentary about dating isn’t entirely fair to the women who consent to sharing the views about the subject. The interviewees genuinely seem surprised when Markle either goes in for a kiss or asks them for a date before the interviews abruptly end. With all that has happened in the years since Markle began production, Shoot to Marry might have benefitted from a bit more little soul-searching about the women in the film. In a post-#MeToo environment, one has to read the room.
Shoot to Marry screens at the Canadian Film Festival on SuperChannel on June 6 and will be on VOD platforms June 16.