Monday, 17 June 2013

MARGARITA - Lesbian, Latina Nanny is the focus of this Horrendous low-budget Canadian movie.

Margarita (2012) *
Dir. Dominique Cardona and Laurie Colbert
Starring: Nicola Correeia-Damude, Patrick McKenna, Christine Horne, Claire Lautier, Maya Ritter

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Picture. Start. A bevy of babes in a variety of shades – a gelato assortment of white coconut, dark mocha, creamy hazelnut and of course, one fiery red-hot goblet of apricot spiced with chili peppers (Margarita, the title character) – begin their SloMo descent into a steamy hot tub.

Nary a one is naked. Strike One. The soundtrack belts out the Gypsy Kings – or rather, some equally horrendous facsimile of said annoying guitar pickers. Only a pseudo-Theodorakis bouzouki score would be more repulsive. Strike Two. Oh, but hold on a second, things might get interesting. The attractive strawberry blonde babe slo-mos towards the stunningly delectable Latina treat. They kiss.

Safe on first base. For now.

Cut to a babe in the back seat of a moving car. She looks forlornly out the window as a bleak winter scene rushes by. She breathes gently onto the cold window and etches something within the thin layer of frost with her finger, but changes her mind and erases it. Hmmmm. Something is bothering her. Do we want to know what it is? Not really. We’re hoping to get back to the frolicking lesbians in the hot tub.

Oh, phew! We’re back. The SloMo hot tub action is surely going to crank up into the stratosphere as the Mocha Babe fires up a dubie. YES! Clothes will come off! This is promising, even though the sickening Gypsy Kings wanna-be music is scraping at our eardrums.

Ah, Jesus Christ! We’re out of the lesbo action again. A car pulls up to a big, old upscale house. As the car slows down, a tow truck backs up to it and the driver of the car, the babe who previously was looking forlornly out the passenger-side window, jumps out and starts yelling at the tow truck driver. He informs her he’s repossessing the vehicle. Now all I can think about is: why is this woman driving a car when she was just previously NOT driving the car? I slap myself. Pay attention to the – ahem – story (one that managed to take three people to write).

Okay, but now my head is bursting with questions. All I can think about is the logic and reality behind this repossession sequence. Luckily, for the filmmakers, I worked as a Repo Man for two weeks during my slacker McJob Days in the 80s and I’m also freshly reminded of that halcyon epoch because I recently watched Alex Cox’s Repo Man, a movie that inspired me to seek out the aforementioned job (which I eventually quit to work as a window clerk at the racetrack). So all I’m thinking about now is how amazingly stupid either the script or the character of the forlorn woman is. Maybe it’s a bit of both.

So imagine this. Put yourself in the shoes of the forlorn woman. The street is empty. There are no parked cars in front or behind you. A tow truck miraculously appears out of nowhere and begins backing up towards you. You know goddamn well you haven’t been making your car payments, so instead of backing up, slamming into drive and pulling a sharp U-turn on the empty street and zig-zagging your way out of the neighbourhood, you get out of the car (that, let me remind you, appears to be a car you weren’t driving a few seconds earlier) and you start arguing with the tow truck driver (who is apparently doubling as a Repo Man) whilst he hitches up to your vehicle. Even more inexplicably, your Hubby is getting embarrassed and offers up his testicles on a platter by apologizing to the tow-truck-driving Repo Man. Now we know who wears the pants in the family – and, of course, who drives the car – even though it’s impossible to do so when sitting forlornly and etching in the passenger-side window frost.

Now, if we’re to believe the tow-truck driver is also the Repo Man, we begin to wonder why he’s towing the car away with its delinquent owners in full view. Gee, I guess he’s just not a very good Repo Man. After all, a Repo Man would normally stake out the scene and wait until the car’s occupants go into the house, whereupon he’d can hitch up and tow the vehicle away with no muss, no fuss because he’s not even required to serve papers as notices would have been mailed about the repossession order a few weeks earlier. To be a Repo-Man is to be a legal car thief and get away with it as surreptitiously as humanly possible.

To make matters worse (and by this point – it’s Strike Three and the picture’s out), a teenage girl saunters up to the scene, pulls out her cel phone and calls the hot tub lesbians to say the owners are home early. Huh? Eventually, we find out that the teenager is the daughter of the Mom and Dad and when we shouldn’t be thinking about this a couple of scenes later, all we CAN think about is why she seemed less concerned about the family car being repossessed and instead was warning the lesbians. This is especially head-scratching since the Hot Tamale and her Aryan Princess are lolling in the tub with nary a concern while all the other lesbians freak out upon hearing the news and inexplicably rush out of the tub even though the aforementioned Miss Tamale informs them that she is allowed to have friends over anytime she likes WHICH, presumably the teenage daughter would be aware of. Even more ludicrous is how quickly the fleeing lesbians manage to dry-off and dress in full winter gear and titter out the front door in full view of the owners of the house.

Oh, and why WAS the teenage daughter walking towards all the repossession action as if she’d been coming from down the block? Wasn’t she in the car when it first pulled up? Wait a minute. Was SHE the forlorn woman looking out the window? Maybe, but now I feel like a pedophile because my first impression of her in the car was to think, hey, she’s quite a babe. Worse yet, when I’m sitting in a movie theatre, I’m not about to have the ability to rewind to find out (and if I have to do this at home watching on DVD, it’s never a good sign). Even more egregious, in what’s a relatively simple (and ultimately simple-minded) movie, the entire running time is rife with moments like this. We’re continually taken out of the story’s action (such as it is) by sloppy writing and even sloppier filmmaking.

The idiocies continue in ample abundance during this opening. While the car is being repossessed and wifey transforms into a shrieking harridan and hubby shrinks evermore into a kind of Wally Cox-like Mr. Peepers, the Tamale and the Ice Queen are nuzzling each other in the hot tub and a long conversation ensues about why they should get married and why the Ice Queen never introduces the Tamale to her friends and family and between both of these conversations, a whole whack of exposition is shoehorned into the proceedings until we finally figure out that the Tamale is the teenage girl’s nanny, is on call 24 hours, that Mom and Dad are in a financial sinkhole because Dad’s made unwise investments and Mom’s blown all the rest of the dough on pilates, cosmetics, home renovations, designer clothes and God knows what else.

And why the hell DID the family come home early? They were supposed to be on a skiing trip for the ENTIRE weekend. Instead, they drove to and from the resort in six hours, decided to cancel the trip because there was no snow and all this in spite of the fact that I recall seeing plenty of snow in the exteriors, though in fairness, the snow does seem to miraculously thin out a few minutes later. As well, who in their right mind goes up to a lodge for a weekend getaway and goes home when they discover they can’t ski? Most lodges offer fabulous discounts in such instances and are still a nice getaway. In retrospect I’ll acknowledge that maybe the family is too harried financially to be thinking this way, but on the other hand, given the family’s penchant for upper-middle-class spend-thriftiness, I don’t buy it for a second.

While Mom and Dad continue to argue – well, Mom’s arguing, Dad’s smoking a joint – the teenage girl offers romantic advice to the Tamale and warns that the Ice Queen is not a good match. Before you know it, Miss Tamale suggests they bike down to the local cinema and catch a movie and lo and behold, when just minutes earlier the sky was thick with grey clouds and the streets had snow on them, the sun is shining brightly and what appear to be blobs of cotton rolls, lightly adorn the ground and then, just as quickly, as the bike ride continues, there’s tons of snow all over the place.

Folks, this is approximately only ten minutes into the movie. Ten minutes! This is the point when one should be saying, okay, a rocky start, but now things are rolling and maybe the picture’s going to finally settle in and offer a few or perhaps, many, delights that up to this point have thus eluded it. No such luck. The movie gets worse.

We essentially have to suffer through a horrendous plot in which the not-so-affluent-anymore parents have to fire Miss Tamale. This, of course, is going to be hard to do as the Nanny is perfect. Perfect in every way - a Latina Mary Poppins, she's been with the family for years and has essentially been a surrogate mother to the teenage girl. As she’s an illegal, this firing could eventually result in her deportation. We have to suffer through a myriad of romantic trials and tribulations. We have to suffer through by-rote attempts the character must endure to try and get her life together. We have to suffer through endless pseudo-lovemaking and lollygagging with that awful score which attempts slight variations on the Gypsy Kings theme and veers into Muzak territory – a kind of Esquivel as filtered through Mantovani (but nowhere near as ripe as such a combo would be). Then, somewhat distastefully we are dragged into the ludicrous sub-plot of the teenage daughter pronouncing she wants to be bi-sexual because she admires her Hot Tamale Nanny so much.

Give me a break.

Some of these plot points might have been bearable, but the tone of the movie is unsure, most of the dialogue horrendously clichéd and on the nose and all the stitching and details of the movie are so sloppily rendered from a storytelling standpoint, it's virtually impossible to connect on any meaningful level with any of the characters. The overwhelming emphasis on Nanny Margarita's utter perfection doesn't help matters - especially when the film clumsily attempts to balance this out, but instead makes the character occasionally without appeal.

This is a dreadful film. It’s apparently won a myriad of audience awards at a variety of good film festivals including Toronto’s Inside Out, the Women’s Film Festival in France, and God Help Us All, a Best Feature Film prize at the Barcelona International Film Festival. Were the audiences and juries on crack or were they so desperate for a fake, incompetent movie with beautiful people pretending to be, uh, real?

We’ll never know, but one thing I am happy to say in the film’s favour is that its leading lady Nicola Correia Damude has movie star written all over her. She manages to raise herself above the mediocre noodlings of the filmmakers and prove that the camera loves her, that she knows how to work the camera and that at some point, she’ll get a role or two that will put her completely over the top. The rest of the cast also handle themselves as well as can be expected and happily don’t completely embarrass themselves by inhabiting this execrably written and directed movie.

Of course, the film has been made on a shoestring budget, which might account for SOME of the continuity gaffes, but the real problems lie NOT in production value, but in the very things that make a movie worthwhile – a good story well told. Alas, when one watches a movie and ALL THE WAY THROUGH IT one is being taken out of whatever meager drama is on display by elements that should have been worked out on the page and/or by the filmmaker, then there’s no excusing whatever good intentions it might have had. Good intentions never make a good movie. Then again, neither does incompetence.

"Margarita" is the Opening Night Gala of the Toronto Female Eye Film Festival 2013 and will enjoy a theatrical run at the Magic Lantern Carlton Cinema.