Margarita with a Straw (2016; Shonali Bose and Nilesh Maniyar)
By Daniel Barnes
*Opens today at the Cine Grand 7 in Fremont and the Camera 3 in San Jose.
Kalki Koechlin stars in this wispy but well-meaning romantic comedy as Laila, a spunky aspiring writer with cerebral palsy. Laila leaves India to pursue an education in New York, where a newfound permissiveness kicks an already revving sexual awakening into overdrive.
After a few unrequited crushes on “normal boys” and a fumbled attempt to experiment with another wheelchair-bound classmate, Laila falls in love with a blind female student protester, tentatively coming out while still itching to explore.
Sensitivity and restraint are the greatest strengths of Margarita with a Straw. The film seems firmly set against exploitation and pandering, at least until the face-palm final scene, and always meets the character of Laila at her emotional and physical eye level. With humor and heart, it deals with subjects that most movies wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole, especially the day-to-day challenges and sexual needs of people with disabilities.
I just wish the movie wasn’t so feel-good perfunctory, so comfortable and comforting. It’s far too eager to ape the therapy-movie mold of drippy American indies.