Interestingly, Bridegroom I think serves as a reminder that the MPAA ratings system is a little challenged these days. When I saw the R rating, I was baffled. I don’t really remember there being any profanity, maybe one F-bomb. I find it so bizarre when documentaries are held to the same language standards as narrative features, because often those words are taken from actual events, or interviews. Most documentaries have a very strong learning aspect to them, and to rate a documentary R simply because of a few curse words seems extreme to me.
Bridegroom refers to the last name of the subject of the documentary, Tom Bridegroom, a young gay man who tragically fell to his death on May 7th, 2011, leaving behind his partner Shane. This tragedy has already gotten a lot of media attention, mainly due to a 10 minute video that went viral ahead of this documentary being made. People instantly resonated with Shane’s story, about not being able to really say goodbye, and being prevented from attending the funeral of his partner. Gay or straight, to already have to lose the most important person in your life, and then have this unnecessary hate compounding on top, is infuriating. I’d imagine Martha Bridegroom and her husband get nasty looks on a daily basis.
I think I would have appreciated Bridegroom more had I not seen the 10 minute version prior to this. Honestly, there’s a ton of filler regarding Shane’s life growing up, and Tom’s life growing up. The most interesting part of the story isn’t that, it’s the details about how Tom’s family handled his death, and prevented Shane from being a part of the funeral. While it is nice to hear anecdotal comments about Shane and Tom, and knowing that Shane’s family accepted him for who he was, I feel like we skimped on the gut wrenching details of Shane’s dangerous journey to Tom’s funeral.
It’s like the director believed we needed the first hour of the film to really believe that Shane and Tom were in love, and that the rest would just fall into place. I needed a better balance, because I realize what their ace in the hole is. The fact is, if Tom had died, and Tom’s family let Shane come to the funeral and treated him like a normal human being, we’d never have heard of this story. Shane would have never been a viral hit, and this movie would have never been made. As insensitive as it may seem to say this, we want to see the good stuff.
That being said, I think it is still an effective documentary, especially for those who are totally unfamiliar with this story. I think it does a good job of presenting the facts, and establishes Shane as an incredibly likeable guy early on. That’s important, because this is all his side of the story. The Bridegroom Brood is never on screen with their rebuttal. In fact, I can’t even find anything online from them saying that this stuff isn’t true. It’s almost like they know they’re assholes, and they’ve just accepted it.
I know that the producers of Bridegroom are hoping for a Best Documentary nomination this year, but I just don’t think it’ll happen. It’ll do fairly well on Netflix, and it will help with the overall cause of marriage equality. It lacks the gravitas needed to compete against a lot of the heavier films that are typically nominated for an Oscar.
FINAL GRADE: B-