In the opening scene of the new movie "Love is Strange," a couple is getting ready for the day, bickering gently.
"Glasses? I can't find my glasses," says Ben, played by John Lithgow.
"Not today, please God! Not today!" mutters George, played by Alfred Molina.
It's only after a few final preparations, and a harried search for a taxi to take them to an important appointment, is it clear why they are so nervous: the two men are getting married.
On the weekend that the new movie opens in the Twin Cities, a court decision also shows how the ability of people to express their love in America continues to change. When a U.S. appeals court ruled Thursday that same-sex marriage bans in Wisconsin and Indiana violate the U.S. constitution, it was the latest in a series of courtroom wins for gay-marriage advocates.
"Love is Strange" follows the ripple effects that occur when two men who have been together for 40 years finally marry. Its opening ceremony shows how those victories are playing out across the nation.
"We are gathered here today, in the presence of these witnesses, for the purpose of uniting in matrimony George Esteban Garreia and Benjamin Arthur Hull," intones the wedding officiant.
George and Ben celebrate their marriage with a large group of family and friends at a reception in their apartment. But things are about to change.
Director and co-screenwriter Ira Sachs said the film was inspired by real events.
"My co-writer Mauricio Zacharius and I heard about a case in the Midwest where a couple had gotten married, two men, and one of them had lost their job as a choir director for a Catholic high school," Sachs said. "And to us that seemed like a very good engine for a plot."
In the movie, George loses his job. Ben only has sporadic income as a painter. When their financial situation quickly become dire, they ask many of the people who were at the wedding reception to return for an important meeting.
"We invited you all here today because, well, you're family," says George.
"Are you telling us you are getting divorced already?" jokes a nephew.
"That's what I thought too," says a friend, sounding worried.
"No," sighs George. "We, eh, we have to sell the apartment."
That makes Ben and George homeless. They split up to stay with friends and are initially welcomed. But as time passes, the stress of having an extra person around becomes wearing.
George and Ben's separation, Sachs said, causes their hosts to question their own relationships.
"It looks at love from the perspective of that central couple, but also a couple played by Marisa Tormei and Darren Burrows, who are in the middle of their life, and the young boy played by the extraordinary Charlie Tahan who is discovering love for the first time as a teenager," the director said.
While the film is not autobiographical Sachs describes it as personal. He said he likes to make movies where he can tell stories about things he knows something about.
"When I started the film, at that point I had just married my partner, who is now my husband," he said. "And I went from living alone to living with my husband. We had two kids, and then their mom moved in. And then visiting family came to stay with us, and so we had this communal world of generations, which is really what to me the film is about."
Key to the success of the film are the performances of Lithgow and Molina as Ben and George.
Sachs said while the actors didn't know each other well, both are in decades-long marriages, and are acclaimed for their stage and film work. He said they just clicked while making "Love is Strange."
"I think they had so much in common when they got on set they kind of fell in love," Sachs said, "as friends can do, as friends who share an enormous amount."
When asked if "Love is Strange" is a product of the changing marriage laws in the United States, Sachs said not really. Instead, he said, it's more about his state of mind. He is more optimistic now and believes that, unlike his previous films, "Love is Strange" is optimistic too.
For him, the growing ability of people to marry who they love shows that relationships are no longer defined by labels, but the experiences we have with each other.
"I feel like I reflect what it feels like, as a gay person perhaps, to be in America today through this film, which is a better place," he said.