On the eve of Barack Obama’s 2008 election, many liberal Californians found their euphoria dampened by the passing of Proposition 8, banning same-sex marriage in the state. They did what Californians traditionally do: got organised, found some sympathetic Hollywood money and put on a brilliant legal show, here charted over five years of testimony, appeals, cheers and tears.
This passionate doc has a built-in audience. But it deserves wider viewing, especially for its thriller of a plot twist: the surprising recruitment to the cause of attorney Theodore Olson, the right-winger who successfully argued Dubya into the White House. As Olson puts it, ‘Marriage is a conservative value.’ Teaming with his Bush v Gore opponent David Boies, and a pair of courageous same-sex couples, they begin their lengthy preparations.
The film is strongest during these conference-room brainstorms, similar to those of a political campaign. It could have used more of Boies’s witness-demolishing courtroom eloquence, but the draw here is watching a careful process unfold, regardless of the outcome.