I came to view a screening of Margarita with a mixed sense of curiosity and bemusement, firstly a precedent should be established, my knowledge of Gay/Lesbian orientated films was not a genre with which I was overly familiar. [Bound being the solitary exception] but my friend Lucy had been invited to interview the film-makers Dominique Cardona and Laurie Colbert [who’s magnum opus Finns Girl had garnered huge critical praise upon its release in 2007] and was unashamedly nervous about the prospect and asked if I would view the film and offer a critique from an alternative perspective to provide a few questions to present to the ladies.
It was not at all what I was expecting,I suppose in some latent homophobic like misjudgement I was expecting a political narrative suffused with wry observations of the inequalities of society,what I discovered what a subtle examination of the lack of Gay cinema within the mainstream couched in a fight for acceptance from a society keen to reap the rewards of endeavour but not to reward the principle players, there was a deftness of touch in each of the portrayals, Margarita is an illegal domestic who has been hiding within secure family concern for six months gradually taking over not only the cooking, domestic duties, repairs and the care of the solitary child [Mali, portrayed by the astonishingly good Maya Ritter] but the principle power couple Gail and Ben too, whilst her days are filled with domestic drudgery she still finds time to have innumerable hot tub parties whilst the family are away,she flirts with the gardener the sadly and pointlessly besotted Carlos and find time for a full on relationship with Jane a high flying student who seems at time unsure on whether she is comfortable with Margarita being so open about their relationship….Gail and Ben seem to have all the trappings of middle class suburban joy, good jobs, lovely home, happy child yet ennui has already crept in, they return from a short break and the priceless exchange of “How was the adventure weekend ? …there was no snow!” sets the tone for their relationship in the first half of the film, there was a huge disparity in the ways both couples reached resolution after a confrontation, Gail and Ben resort to back biting critiques, drugs and alcohol whilst Margarita and Jane seek solace through reason and an almost sensual display of subtle subservience to each other. The film follows the disintegration of the family unit, who’s seemingly bizarre conclusion to their emotional and financial malaise is to rid themselves of their nanny and mentor in all aspects of their daughters life rather than their wine club a decision that drives their daughter to the brink of emotional collapse and forces them to totally re evaluate their own relationship issues, questioning the roots of their marital phobias which eventually lead them to the only conclusion they can reach ,that being they need to keep Margarita within the family at any cost…. ,the only mild hint of politicism raises its head during the Margarita green card issue which deftly reflects on social injustice,illegal immigration and the lack of morality within society. Maybe quietly paying homage to the absurdest but wholly entertaining A Day Without Mexicans film of yore.
The co writer Margaret Webb weaved a mercurial mixture of lyrical cynicism and joy within what was in truth a very tight framework of expression, the script was both painfully funny and at times openly objective ,whilst the direction ,possibly dictated by financial limitations as much as any huge desire to ape the great expressionist directors of times passed,echoed Jean Luc Godard in its almost improvised nature, lighting and music became as important as dialogue whilst the subtle facial exchanges echoed the minimalist theatrical practices of Antonin Artaud at his best, in fact I approached Dominique with a question regarding whether she saw the film ever transferring to the stage, to which she replied that the whole film was shot in their house so in truth it was as limiting as a stage and yes it could make a wonderful stage production, the central relationship is the hardest to pin point at times is it the obvious latent lesbian desires of the mother towards Margarita, or the relationship between Margarita and Jane although in my eyes its the developing love between Mali and Margarita that turn the film on its head. I found the understated performance of Claire Lautier astonishing,only ever seeing her in such fitful “comedies” as Elf and Ghost Town I was more than impressed by her subtle and moving delivery of character, Nicola Correia Damude gives a stunning performance as Margarita, which in a more open world would have got her noticed in the Oscars, it still seems wrong to me that here in 2013 we need a Lesbian/Gay Film week to get these films exposure, in truth doesn’t the very fact it does exist put off a vast audience who would attend an Independent film festival, worse still is that multiplexes do not give any Independent films a run. Margarita ends its run tonight [24 March] at the BFI, one hopes it will make the transition to Blu Ray sooner rather than later but the myopic hopelessness of distributors means you might have to catch it at a festival, it was a joy to firstly see the film, secondly have the opportunity to discuss it with the principle directors/producers and thirdly for the consideration shown to me by Lucy who has now opened my eyes to an entire genre of Art I unintentionally avoided thinking it had nothing to offer me, I was so very wrong and its a travesty that millions more like me are refused the opportunity for this kind of education, the film is a beautiful creation, it may be built from a small budget but it conveys a huge warmth and delivers an even larger message of tolerance without once appearing preachy..congratulations to all involved.