Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Margarita with a Straw, or: La La La La Lai-la

I can’t believe we’re already starting to wrap up the Summer of Love, AKA Gay July.  This week’s film tells a story we usually don’t see on film about a young woman from India with cerebral palsy learning to love ladies, guys, and herself.

The Film:

Margarita with a Straw

The Premise:

A young Indian woman with cerebral palsy studies abroad in New York, where she develops her sense of self, interest in Apple products, and sexual identity.

The Ramble:

Laila is a young Indian woman living with her music-loving family:  dad who always sings off-key, brother constantly making snide remarks, and problem-solving mother who can seemingly do anything.  As a woman with cerebral palsy, Laila gets around in a wheelchair, hangs with her bestie Dhruv at school, and is never caught without a trusty (controversial?) plastic straw.  Laila is almost always smiling and happy, but she hides her feelings of insecurity and shame about her disability behind this facade.

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Though she doesn’t play an instrument, Laila loves music and writes lyrics for her band.  She’s somewhat confused when she finds herself attracted to two different members of the band, one of whom happens to be female.  It’s ultimately the lead singer, Nima, who Laila decides is the man of her dreams until she is rejected.  Not only that, but her band wins the top prize at a competition, which the announcer says to her face is because of her disability.

Too ashamed and discouraged to return to her school, Laila eagerly accepts her mother’s solution:  go to NYU and study creative writing on the scholarship she has recently earned.

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During her first class, Laila’s instructor assigns a student to help her type and take notes.  She initially declines help…until she realizes her assistant will be a rather attractive blonde Brit.

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Soon after, Laila is in for a shock when she happens across a protest against police violence.  As the protest intensifies, the police shut it down with tear gas, leaving behind Laila and another girl, Khanum.  A rebel with parents from Pakistan and Bangladesh, Khanum is blind and very interested in Laila.

As the girls explore the city together, Laila becomes attracted to Khanum, and they begin a relationship in secret.  While Khanum is out and secure in her identity, Laila feels less certain and has absolutely no desire to have that conversation with her family.  Laila’s mother has no clue the girls are more than friends when they decide to move in together.

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Though Laila loves Khanum, she is still attracted to Jared, her British assistant.  After impulsively sleeping with him, Laila keeps this a secret.  Probably for the best as both Laila and Khanum have been invited to spend the holidays with her family.

Inevitably, drama ensues.  Laila decides now is the time to be honest on all fronts, revealing her bisexuality to her mother and hook up with Jared to Khanum.  None of this goes well, but everything is put on hold when a much bigger family crisis emerges.

The Rating:

3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

I really love that this film was made–Laila is not a character we see too often on screen.  She feels like a very real character rather than the improbably saintly figure who triumphs over adversity that characters with disabilities often become.  Though she’s optimistic, Laila does feel insecure about how others perceive her disability.  Importantly, she makes mistakes that are frustrating at times but allow her to experience growth as a character.  Despite some of her questionable choices, it’s impossible not to root for Laila.

The character of Khanum is also excellent–what a badass.  She makes the whole Jared situation extra frustrating because he’s so fucking dull by comparison.  Her romance with Laila feels organic, though the main love story in this film is that of Laila with herself.  The relationship between Laila and her mother feels real too; it’s a beautiful relationship, but it’s not perfect.  Both women have emotional limitations that prevent them from connecting at times.

Biggest complaint here is the absence of a musical number about sexuality in the tradition of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.

Would my blog wife join the protest with this one or fly to New York just to get away from it?  Find out here!

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Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Duck Butter, or: The Longest Day

Summer of Love/Gay July continues!  Though this week’s film definitely throws a huge bucket of water on the sparks of romance, we will continue to celebrate lesbians in the movies.  And lesbians in general, really.

The Film:

Duck Butter

The Premise:

Having met at a club the day before, 2 women embark on an experiment to spend a solid 24 hours together.

The Ramble:

Naima is an aspiring actress who has just landed a coveted gig in a Duplass brothers film (with Kumail Nanjiani in a brief cameo).  Upon her arrival on set, Naima feels immediately out of sync with the other actors and even fails to eat onion rings correctly in the eyes of the directors.  When Naima tells Mark and Jay that this isn’t working, they respond rather condescendingly.

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Later that night, Naima is going on a first date with a girl at some kind of singer-songwriter lesbian club?  (We don’t have these in Ohio.)  When Naima’s date goes off with another girl, Naima becomes fascinated by one of the singers, Sergio.  Sergio is a young woman who may not be the best singer, but she’s certainly the most passionate.  While Naima tries to argue with some older ladies about the bleak world they have left for millennials to inherit, Sergio interrupts with an invitation to dance.

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As the evening winds down, Naima goes back to Sergio’s place and meets the roomies and stray dogs.  After having sex, Naima jokingly suggests they just keep things as they are for the next 24 hours.  Sergio takes her up on this offer only to have Naima “Commitment Issues” McGee back out.

However, after receiving a heads up the next day that she’s being fired from the Duplass brothers film, Naima decides to go along with the plan to spend a solid 24 hours together, sharing absolutely everything.  As in leaving the bathroom door open when one has to take a piss.  Everything.  Oh, and they will have sex once every hour, which just sounds tiring.

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As the night goes on, Naima and Sergio have their ups and downs.  With Sergio’s encouragement, Naima sends a drunken email to the Duplass brothers, essentially telling them to fuck off.  They vent about their mothers, and Sergio rides a bike for the first time.  However, Sergio insults Naima’s fondness for song covers and is furious when she learns Naima changed her mind about the 24-hour experiment because she lost her job.

When Sergio’s mother arrives in town, will it bring Naima and Sergio together or tear them apart?  What about the suggestion of an orgy or the email response of the Duplass brothers?

The Rating:

2/5 Pink Panther Heads

Good lord, Naima is awful and utterly impossible to get attached to as her character remains so distant throughout the film.  Sergio is at least a bit more interesting, but grows tiresome quickly with all of her armchair psychologist advice that seems ripped from the pages of a paperback self-help book.  The characters are meant to be complex and layered, but they come across as completely unlikeable.

Worst of all, the film is just straight up boring.  The 24 hours Naima and Sergio spend together are the most mundane fucking hours of their lives.  Why lounge around and watch each other take a piss when presumably this is what people in long-term relationships have plenty of opportunities for after they’ve been together for a year?  I was hoping our leading ladies would at least bury a body together, but I would’ve settled for a road trip or taking a drive to the mall.

Color me surprised when the results of this rather boring experiment are…well, boring.

Would Christa spend 24 hours with this one or slam the bathroom door in its face immediately?  Find out here!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

The Firefly, or: No Weddings and a Funeral

It’s summer.  It’s hot.  We’re looking for a film with a bit less intensity than The Witch but with a message of female empowerment…and lesbians.  This month we’re highlighting films about same-sex relationships between women (and possibly men if we feel like it), which I’m informally referring to as the Summer of Love.  Month of Love?  Either way, count on many significant stares, secret meetings at night, and…the use of coffee to express feelings?

The Film:

The Firefly

The Premise:

Two women mourning the same man unexpectedly develop romantic feelings for each other.

The Ramble:

Though she has been quite happily married for 4 years, Lucia has decided to call it quits with husband Adrian.  Why?  Adrian’s recent promotion will take him to New York, while Lucia feels the need to stay in Bogota to support her brother and his fiancée.

Just a few days before, Lucia and her brother Andrés weren’t even on speaking terms–why the sudden change of heart?  A car accident on Andrés’ wedding day puts more than one plan on hold, leaving Lucia devastated.  Instead of attending the funeral for her brother, Lucia hides out in his apartment, discovering another mourner left behind:  Mariana, the fiancée.

The two women bond immediately over their shared grief.  Lucia is full of regrets over the way she treated her brother, calling him a monster during their final conversation.  However, through Mariana, Lucia hears about the last few years of her brother’s life and his happy relationship with Mariana.

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Rather than return home to her husband, Lucia stays with Mariana–that is, until movers come to clear out Andrés’ apartment.  In the empty apartment, the two women light candles (and drink copious amounts of wine) to honor Andrés.  On Lucia’s insistence, she and Mariana visit Andrés’ grave and bring him flowers.

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Though the two women return to their separate lives, they still feel a strong connection.  Somewhat impulsively, the two set out for the town where Lucia and Andrés grew up.  Staying together in a hotel room with one bed leads to a sudden change in their relationship status…but when Lucia regrets their night together, will it snuff out the spark before it’s had a chance to grow?

The Rating:

3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

My favorite part of this film is the relationship between Mariana and Lucia, which feels authentic and natural.  A scene where they communicate through slurps of a straw is unique and sweet without being sappy.

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Though the relationship feels real, it does take a long time for it to develop onscreen.  However, the biggest problem with the film is its melodramatic start.  Not only do we get a slow-mo car accident involving a shattered family portrait, but a dramatic bride running away from the church in tears.  Probably the first 20 minutes of the film are scenes of Lucia and/or Mariana crying…which I understand, but still gets to be a bit much.

The melodrama is undercut by Lucia having a rather petty reason for cutting herself off from her brother.  The futility of holding onto grudges is important to this film thematically, but it just sort of makes Lucia look like an asshole.

Overall, the chemistry between our two leads makes this one worth it.

Was Christa rooting for this one or waiting for it to die in a slow-mo car crash?  Find out here!