Inlaws & Outlaws: Gay Marriage, Great. Context: Not So Much

Drew Emery's locally made debut documentary, seen in a slightly different cut at SIFF '05, tackles the always fraught subject of marriage—for straight and gay couples alike. Spliced between jazzy love songs sung by a plump black woman in a tux, more than 20 people of all ages talk about the circumstances that led them to a partner, and share their thoughts on marriage, divorce, and sexuality.

Inlaws presents an unusually sugary array of stories that paint a pointillist picture of American marriage. Couples relate their tales in a rather fragmented, stream-of-consciousness fashion. Some tell heartbreaking accounts of love lost, others the droll discovery of their sexual tendencies. Perhaps half these stories provoke any serious discussion about the state of marriage in the U.S., why divorce rates are so high, or why gay marriage was such the big campaign issue in 2004, when Inlaws was being filmed.

Certainly, personal anecdotes can help define and demonstrate an issue. And certainly the similarities between straight and gay marriages (or just couples) are timely and important. But Inlaws doesn't do enough, doesn't get beyond the anecdotal. Allowing even a few outsiders—whether they be political scientists or sociologists—to provide context would have made Inlaws a fuller, more enlightening documentary. But, hey, maybe Hillary will endorse gay marriage, and come election season Emery will find himself debating Bill O'Reilly on Fox News.

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