Without ever stating it outright, Seattle-based director Drew Emory obviously intends his documentary "Inlaws & Outlaws" to wade sidelong into the gay marriage debate with some sort of "we all love the same" argument. The film follows a sampling of couples, mostly gay and lesbian, with a few straight ones sprinkled in, as they talk directly about how they met, the circumstances of their individual upbringings and the dynamics of their particular relationships.
Emory seems to want the specifics of these stories to speak for themselves, as it were, but without any sort of proper context or fuller background the effect of "Inlaws & Outlaws" is blunted. It is heartbreaking to hear a man tell of how he was unable to obtain a veteran's flag for his deceased partner. But to simply leave it at that, as Emory does, is to leave the thought incomplete.
Because Emory doesn't grapple fully with the issues that loom over the film, there is something soppy and soft-headed about "Inlaws & Outlaws."
The tasteful industrial-modern decor of the interview sets and the participants' predilections for modern eyewear, printed fabrics and fashionable sandals make the film seem like an audition piece for a Christopher Guest film called "So Seattle." For a project that wants to overturn stereotypes, it is odd that so many of them have been allowed to pass unnoticed. A film such as "Inlaws & Outlaws" needs to be more rigorous, to engage more directly with the issues it instead chooses to circumscribe. A topic as divisive as gay marriage needs to be faced head-on, not sidestepped in favor of easily earned good feelings and the self-satisfaction of preaching to the choir.
"Inlaws & Outlaws." MPAA rating: Unrated. Running time: 1 hour, 37 minutes. Exclusively at Laemmle's Sunset 5, 8000 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, (323) 848-3500.