Tying the Knot

"Good"

Tying the Knot Review


Even though it's probably not going to convince many people already opposed to gay marriage to come out and support it, Tying the Knot will at least make them feel guilty about their bigotry. Director Jim de Sève's documentary is a full-on polemic that wants to do everything it can to fight for the cause of equal rights, and like everything delivered by a true believer, it tends to wander and to forget to back up its basic arguments. But the main thrust of the film is not argumentative, it's emotional, which is both a strength and a weakness.

Although not a historical document, Tying the Knot opens with an engaging piece of protest arcana: grainy footage showing a 1971 incident in which dozens of gay longhairs occupied the New York City Clerk's Office to protest the illegality of same-sex marriage. After that little slice of agitprop, de Sève moves briskly into the body of his film, namely, to show the effect of homophobic discrimination on same-sex couples. One lengthy segment follows the attempts of a rancher, Sam, to save his house after the death of his husband, whose family is disputing Sam's rights to the property as laid out in the will. Scruffy and old, the polar opposite of the media stereotype of a gay man, Sam wanders his scrubby Oklahoma property in a beat-up plaid workshirt and baseball cap wondering just how in the hell he's going to get by. You soon get the feeling that this is a guy who's been handed enough raw deals in life, without the added indignity of his partner's relations (who wanted nothing to do with him in life) taking away what little he has left.

Even more heartrending is the case of Mickie and Lois, two cops in a long-term relationship who would have been married had they been allowed. After Lois was gunned down in the line of duty, Mickie has to suffer the same insult as Sam when she tries to collect Lois's pension and is rebuffed by the police department. What's almost harder to watch than Lois's despair over Mickie's murder is the way that the police board treats her afterward. For the most part, these are men and women who seem to acknowledge and not particularly care about the nature of Lois and Mickie's relationship, but yet feel hidebound by law and prejudice to do the right thing. Though this might not have been de Sève's intent, seeing such outwardly decent people upholding discriminatory behavior is ultimately more depressing and affecting than witnessing the frothing-at-the-mouth gaybashers who make the obligatory hiss-worthy cameos here.

Never quite feeling the need to present itself as a logical argument for gay marriage, Tying the Knot instead takes the tactic of simply presenting its subject as wounded human beings who deserve their rights. As such, it's extremely effective. When de Sève tries to rope in a wider context, the film flounders to an extent that will keep it from reaching much of a wider audience, which is a shame, as these are people whose stories deserve to be heard.

Reviewed at the 2004 Tribeca Film Festival.



Tying the Knot

Facts and Figures

Run time: 81 mins

In Theaters: Sunday 2nd May 2004

Distributed by: Roadside Attractions

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 88%
Fresh: 30 Rotten: 4

IMDB: 7.5 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Jim de Sève

Producer: Jim de Sève, Stephen D. Pelletier, Kian Tjong

Starring: Bob Barr as Himself (archive footage), Mary Bonauto as Herself (archive footage), Brian Brown as Himself, Martin Bubbly as Himself (archive footage)

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