They’re just two short words, but when ‘I’ and ‘do’ are uttered – in the context of a marriage – those words have the power to bestow rights that go beyond just love and commitment. But not for everyone. In America, what you get when you utter ‘I’ and ‘do’ depends on who you are and who you’ve fallen in love with. As this movie cleverly points out, there’s a real lack of equality out there when it comes to America’s federal laws on marriage.
Former Bad Boys Inc teen idol David W Ross (who penned the screenplay) stars as Jack – an Englishman who’s been living in New York for years. He’s close to his sister-in-law (Alicia Witt) and his niece (Jessica Tyler Brown), having taken on a supportive role following the death of his brother years earlier. However, these close family relationships are put in jeopardy when Jack’s visa runs out. His lawyer advises him that the only way he can remain in the country would be to gain a green card via marriage, and, since he’s a handsome guy, this shouldn’t be too difficult to achieve.
However, there’s just one snag for poor Jack. He’s gay, and the American federal law doesn’t recognise gay marriage – which is a state level thing. So Jack is forced to find a willing woman to join him in an illegal union. Luckily his best friend Ali (Jamie-Lynn Sigler) is a lesbian and all too happy to help her pal, so the problem is easily solved… but only for a while. Things change when Jack meets the man of his dreams (Maurice Compte) and starts neglecting his ‘wife’/ best friend. When immigration officials come knocking on Ali’s door, she gets cold feet, and when Jack’s lover then leaves the country to care for his sick father, our hero is forced to finally assess the priorities in his life.
This may well be a film about civil rights, but by introducing Jack as a family man with a sense of duty to his sister-in-law and niece, it avoids coming across as the usual issue-based gay movie. The audience get to know him as family man first which is certainly a clever approach. So, when we see him faced with America’s alarming lack of equality with regards to marriage, his situation certainly appears unjust, unfair and, well, downright ridiculous.
However, feeling outraged over Jack’s predicament sadly doesn’t last long because this is the point where our hero turns into a jerk. Meeting Mr Right makes him selfish, insensitive and cruel. His relationships with his niece, sister-in-law and best friend (‘wife’) are all subsequently compromised and he rapidly transforms from a kind and generous family man into a self-obsessed blokey bloke who deserves no sympathy whatsoever.
Nevertheless, this doesn’t prevent the film from being an entertaining ride. Director Glenn Gaylord keeps it simple so the focus is on the performances and, as the two women in Jack’s life, Alicia Witt and Jamie-Lynn Sigler are brilliant. They may both be secondary characters, but they are the ones that hold the tale together; it’s thanks to them that a believable context is provided for our fair weather hero’s personal journey. A thought-provoking tale.
I Do is released on DVD by Peccadillo Pictures on 28th October