REVIEW: ‘Shoot to Marry’ (2020) and the Comedic Paradox of a Self-Aware Incel

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

“By exploring the ways in which a modern man attempts to find love, Markle really just touches on what it means to be lonely in the digital age, and the ways we can struggle to communicate with each other.”

Steve Markle’s Shoot to Marry (2020) has an openly pathetic premise: a man in his early forties attempts to meet women by shooting a hollow documentary about amazing women. The women that Steve meets work in a variety of professions, from pilots to artists to lumberjacks to dominatrices. While Steve vaguely interviews these women, his disembodied narration reveals his own angle with each woman and the insecurities he holds as a man approaching middle age. Acting almost like a man who knows he is going to die, Steve desperately explores every limited connection with women from his past, as well as visiting a therapist, a sex club and a group session from a geisha on “learning how to receive”. What follows is not the disgruntled indulgence of a man who fails to understand women, but a man who struggles to know how to be himself.

“I was hoping to be married before my next colonoscopy” – Steve Markle, shortly after a colonoscopy. 

Naturally, the angle of Markle’s footage first paints him as a very contemporary caricature of a man: an incel. Unable to find romance or even a sexual connection with any woman, Markle awkwardly propositions women who are simply engaged in conversation. While speaking to eccentric New York fashion designer Heidi Lee, Heidi encourages Steve to stop overthinking about “women” and start thinking about “humans”. The heteronormative dichotomy of a man and a woman is the foundation of what has historically been the traditional notion of marriage, which Steve repeatedly tells us is his main goal in a relationship. When Lee encourages Steve to look for “humans”, she is really telling him to develop connections that resonate beyond a primitive need to be coupled physically.

Steve Markle and Heidi Lee. Image: © Shoot To Marry

One key feature of incel culture is the lack of nuance or self-awareness; a woman withholds sex from a man — it is always assumed to be unfair — and the ‘nice guy’ is left in the cold. It is not a rage or smug superiority projected at the opposite sex that pervades the film but rather an openly fragile masculinity, an anxious longing to feel comfortable not only around another person but with oneself. The romantic comedy definitely benefits from adopting a documentary style of filmmaking, even if some scenes feel more scripted than others. Given the potentially sensitive topic, the irony of Steve’s narration and the dialogues between Steve and the women defuse the idea that the film actually executes the manipulative intentions it pretends to have.

Danielle Bar (tattoo artist) and Steve Markle. Image: © Shoot To Marry

Rather than there being an immovable disconnect between Steve and the people he initially pursues, there is a rapport that varies from missed connections, to friendships, to professional appreciation: all dynamics that can be misinterpreted as potential sexual advances. Markle succeeds in emphasising to the audience that not every connection needs to resonate on a deep, long-term level. Company can be enjoyed; you can learn things from people of all genders and ultimately find happiness by allowing any situation to be what it is. By exploring the ways in which a modern man attempts to find love, Markle really just touches on what it means to be lonely in the digital age, and the ways we can struggle to communicate with each other. Often what we struggle to find in others is what we lack within ourselves. Perhaps the beginning of love is simply contentment with what is.

Shoot to Marry premiered at the 2020 Slamdance Film Festival as part of the Breakouts Section, winning the Slamdance Audience Award. The film will arrive on iTunes, Amazon and other on demand platforms on June 16th, 2020.

Director, Editor and Producer: Steve Markle

Screenplay: Steve Markle, Susan Schafer, Stephanie Quilligan, Andrew Thomas Hunt, Jonas Chernick

Producer: Andrew Thomas Hunt

Release Date: June 16th, 2020