CFF Review: Cringe-Inducing Documentary 'Shoot to Marry' Learns Nothing from Its Own Mistakes Directed by Steve Markle
Published Jun 05, 2020Shoot to Marry is only about 70 minutes long, but it should be shorter. Ostensibly a comedic documentary about finding love, this film is difficult to sit through — inducing cringe after cringe — and is funny only in the sense that it inspires nervous laughter out of second-hand embarrassment. What makes it so bad is that it seemingly knows exactly how terrible it is, and it hopes that this self-awareness, along with some self-deprecating humour, might redeem it. But it isn't redeemed, because at its core, Shoot to Marry is morally bankrupt.
Written and directed by Steve Markle, Shoot to Marry is about Markle exclusively. Markle is 42 years old and is not married and desperately wants to change this. He begins the film by showcasing how quirky and nerdy and "funny" he is, suggesting these traits are why he's still single. So, he decides to travel across the U.S. in search of a partner. He finds women online, tells them he's making a documentary "about interesting women," and asks them if they want to speak to him about their work. This is a lie: he's using the pretense of the documentary to find himself a wife. Almost every interview ends with him asking the interviewee either if he can kiss her, or if she'll go on a date with him, and then with her squirming to find a polite way to say no.
It's difficult to watch.
Markle meets some incredible women on his journey, and without his overbearing, creepily whispering voiceovers, without his gaze, this would have been a fun movie about cool women doing cool things. But Markle's gaze is inescapable, it's suffocating — he wields the camera, points it wherever he wants, lets it linger over women's bodies or their faces while muting their audio and talking over them, pontificating about his own misfortunes. Whenever any of the women begins to talk about what makes her immensely interesting, intelligent, capable and strong, he silences them, and all we get is the visual of their faces with Markle talking about how much he hates himself for not being able to find a wife.
The problem is that Markle never seems to listen. Shoot to Marry mistakes quirky self-loathing and navel-gazing for humour. But Markle's perception of how awkward he is, and his self-deprecating voiceovers whenever he gets rejected, are too much. You would think he would make some attempt to change his behaviour. But he doesn't — there are no epiphanies, no character development. Markle seemingly knows exactly what his problem is, but he does nothing to improve.
Time and again, the women he speaks to tell him what he could do to improve his chances in dating, but he doesn't take their advice. He even acknowledges during one voiceover that he needs to do a better job of listening, all while continuing to speak over the person being interviewed. And this unwillingness in Markle to do better in his own life is mirrored by the film itself.
"Are you going to ask me anything about film or photography?" a photographer named Miriam asks Markle at one point. These women haven't agreed to go on a first date with him; they want to talk about their work. Markle wonders whether it's unethical to meet women under the pretense of making a documentary, but this thought comes to him after he's shown them to us through his obsessive gaze, after he's inappropriately flirted with them, after he's objectified and ignored them.
Markle apparently understands how shallow this project is, but this recognition doesn't redeem the film because it comes far too late. He knows the film could have been better, but he doesn't make it so, and that's the real problem — Markle knows what he's doing is wrong, but he persists in this wrongness anyway.
Shoot to Marry — in its cringy, voyeuristic, creepy entirety — exists anyway, and this in itself is unfortunate.
The year's Canadian Film Fest airs on Super Channel Fuse. See the schedule here.