This is a made for TV movie from 2006. The story is set in Augusta, Maine. Conrad Welling (James Brolin) is the Governor and is currently running for re-election. His daughter, Maggie (Bonnie Somerville) has just become engaged to her boyfriend (who also happens to be her father’s speechwriter), Ben (Eric Dane).
Since Ben’s brother is a party planner, Maggie thinks it would be a great idea to have him plan their wedding. Ben’s not overjoyed with the idea. Although, he and his brother Shel (John Stamos) were extremely close as kids; they no longer are. Turns out, Ben is having issues dealing with the fact that Shel is gay.
The wedding is going to be held at the Governor’s Mansion. Shel is doing a fabulous job of arranging the perfect wedding for the happy couple. So that means something needs to go wrong. Guess what ends up being the hot button issue in the election campaign. You got it, gay marriage.
Shel is upset when he finds out the Governor is against it, but that’s nothing to how he feels when he finds out his own brother is also. Which leads to him deciding to go out on strike. His boyfriend, Ted (Sean Maher), tries to convince him that joining a political group that supports gay rights would be more effective than picketing in front of the Governor’s Mansion on his own, but he won’t be swayed.
He finally gets a break when a reporter, who is there doing a story about the upcoming wedding, finds out about Shel’s strike. He interviews Shel on the air, but unfortunately it doesn’t go well. The reporter is very condescending and doesn’t take him seriously. However, it’s just that kind of attitude that set’s off the gays and lesbians in the area which results in them walking off the job.
Pretty soon the strike that Shel started is spreading throughout the state of Maine. As word gets around it starts spreading across the country. Goods and services people had previously taken for granted are no longer available to them. They begin to find out how much they had been relying on gays and lesbians without even knowing it.
We start to see that there is more at stake than just gay marriage. Problems surface between Ben and Maggie. She doesn’t understand how he could be against it even though his brother is gay. Which makes her start doubting what kind of a man he is. Shel accidentally outs Ted at work. Ted is a state prosecuting attorney and didn’t want people to know. He is afraid that if people know he is gay it could interfere with him doing his job. Plus, although Ted is in favor of gay marriage he’s not sure it is right for him, which Shel takes personally.
Made for TV movies don’t always turn out too well, however, I thought they did a good job on this one. It brought up very important issues, but in a light-hearted manner that is probably more acceptable to mainstream America. In addition to being entertaining, hopefully, it helped to change a few people’s minds. Or at the very least make them think about the issue instead of blatantly disregarding it.
I also think that the casting of John Stamos was a great idea. Here he is playing the type of character he is known for, the good looking, charming leading man. Only this time his love interest is a man. John does a terrific job and makes Shel a character that you can empathize with. Plus he and Sean made an adorable and very believable couple.
Some of my favorite scenes (without being too spoilery):
Shel and Ben are taste testing various champagnes so they can decide which should be served at the wedding, when the song “Ben” comes on the radio. They both start singing along. It is a sweet moment where you feel the brother’s are starting to re-bond with each other. Then the moment is ruined; when Shel hears that the Governor is coming out against gay marriage and his brother feels the same way. It instantly goes from heartwarming to heartbreaking.
The first night that Shel is picketing outside of the Governor’s Mansion, Ted sends a pizza delivery guy out to drop off a pizza and a six pack for him. Then later on he shows up (while Shel is sleeping) with a blanket, pillow and a change of clothes for him. It was so sweet the way he took care of Shel even though he didn’t agree with what he was doing. It shows how much he loves him.
Some of my favorite quotes:
Ben – “Over 60% of voters are against it.”
Shel – “Well, that doesn’t make it right.”
Shel – “So, it’s okay for me to plan your wedding, but it’s not okay for me to have one of my own?”
Shel – “Hey, that’s the finger of oppression, ma’am!”
Ted – “He’ll listen to reason. I think he just doesn’t want to listen to you.”
Ted – “But you hate camping! It’ll be cold, and there’ll be bugs, and Heath Ledger won’t be coming by to cuddle with you.”
Maggie – “You know you and your brother have a lot more in common than you think.”
Ben – “Oh, yeah? What’s that?”
Maggie – “Neither one of you is gonna be having sex with a woman tonight.”
Strike Chant – “All we want is marriage access. We pay our bills, we pay our taxes.”
Ted – “No need to apologize, I was happy to be grilled by your mom about an impending wedding I know nothing about!”
Ted – “I didn’t do it for you, Ben, I did it for Shel. Frankly, I think you’re kind of an @ss.”
Claire – “Conrad, you know, just because people disagree with you on this doesn’t mean that they are immoral. Me, for instance.”
Conrad – “Well … you? You’re on their side?”
Claire – “It’s not them or us, dear, we’re all the same.”
Maggie – “You know, Shel didn’t let you down for being gay. You let him down by not accepting it.”
Fyi, you might recognize Sean Maher as Simon on the TV show Firefly and in the movie Serenity.
Following is additional information about the show that contains spoilers. If you don’t want to be spoiled don’t read any further.
I was so irritated with the reporter for referring to gays as a fringe group. Then basically implying that the only jobs they do are floral arranging, hair styling and choreography.
It made me happy that Shel finally came out to his parents instead of allowing Ben to blackmail him. Even though they were surprised and confused by it, they still loved him and didn’t disown him (as some parents have been known to do).
Although it was sad that Shel wasn’t able to change the Governor’s mind about the issue, it was realistic. To me it’s a no brainer, I think gay marriage should be immediately legalized in all 50 states. However, realistically, I know that’s not going to happen. It’s going to take time, but I believe it will happen eventually.