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How ‘Shoot to Marry’ Captures Love, American Style

Indie doc shows the pitfalls of modern romance in fine Woody Allen-esque fashion

Filmmaker Steve Markle isn’t interested in a Tinder one-night stand.

He wants love, marriage and maybe even that baby carriage.

Markle’s darkly comic “Shoot to Marry” finds the director eager to find a soul mate. And if he has to bend the truth, and lug a camera along on his dates to make it happen, so be it.

The high concept doc could have fizzled without a heady dose of humor and insight. Yes, some of Markle’s vignettes stretch the boundaries of his own conceit. What emerges is a deeply personal essay on a 40-something’s search for a partner.

SHOOT TO MARRY | Official HD Trailer (2020) | DOCUMENTARY | Film Threat Trailers

Steve Markle describes himself as a recovering high school geek, and he’s got the photos to prove it. He’s never had an easy time with romance, but he craves a partnership like his parents have enjoyed for decades.

Simple. Honest. Romantic, but not in a cloying Hanks-Ryan way. Only he’s not a natural flirt, and the one woman he asked to marry him had second thoughts.

Immediately.

Why not interview a series of beautiful strangers, on camera, and see if he stumbles upon The One? And if he has to fudge the truth about why he’s chatting them up, that’s show biz, right?

What follows is a series of awkward dates that reveal far more about Markle than his subjects. We meet a hat artist, a blogger, an old crush and some who don’t fit into “Marry’s” mission statement. Markle makes it work, mostly, thanks to his after-the-fact observations and humor.

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The director/star elevates self-loathing to an art form. He makes Woody Allen’s screen persona look downright confident. You’ll want to give him a hug only to reconsider later. He can be prickly, like how he picks beautiful young woman as if casting a personal fantasy, not a love connection.

Markle has a dry wit to go with a gravelly, but pleasing voice. That matters since he narrates the film and appears in virtually every frame. The filmmaker’s comic rhythms also evoke Allen’s barbed wit, a comparison that’s both undeniable and flattering.

“Shoot to Marry” is intermittently hilarious.

It’s also a little creepy given how he coaxes these women before his camera under false pretenses. We’ll have to assume he came clean before the production wrapped and they approved of his tactics.

The most revealing interview comes from the girl Markle adored back in high school. She’s approaching middle age now, just like the director, but her revelations show just how honest people can be when the cameras start rolling.

Prepare to cringe.

You might think Markle’s defeatism would wear out its welcome despite the film’s short running time, but that’s never the case. It helps that “Marry” caps with a genuine surprise, one that ties the film’s themes together while delivering a satisfying coda.

HiT or Miss: “Shoot to Marry” is flawed, like its protagonist, but the documentary’s humor makes it an unusual treat.

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