Review: Strong performances stir ‘Margarita’ romance
There’s a lot to appreciate about the inspiring coming-of-age drama “Margarita With a Straw” despite several seemingly avoidable flaws. Most compelling: a wonderful lead turn by Kalki Koechlin as Laila, a spirited Indian college student with cerebral palsy.
Laila’s physical and emotional journey here is extensive, perhaps overly so, once writer-director Shonali Bose’s script moves Laila, who is loosely based on the filmmaker’s cousin, from Delhi to study at New York University.
Given that the film’s lengthy, India-set first act spends much time dealing with wheelchair-user Laila’s unrequited love for a male classmate, it’s not entirely credible when, soon after arriving in Manhattan, she falls for a forthright young blind woman, Khanum (Sayani Gupta, also quite good).
Still, despite other underexplored strands — Laila’s musical inclinations, her devoted mother’s concealed illness, the finer points of Laila and Khanum’s disabilities — Koechlin gives such a remarkably warm, expressive performance (she and Gupta are non-disabled) it’s hard not to be captivated by much of this tender, if choppy film.
As for the offbeat title: That’s how Laila orders her favorite cocktail.
‘Margarita With a Straw’
In Hindi and English with English subtitles
Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes
Playing: Arena Cinema, Hollywood
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