Recently I had the opportunity to watch Margarita with a Straw, an internationally-acclaimed film filled with diversity of race, sexuality, and ability that blew me away with its humor and simple story. If you’re not into super sentimental coming-of-age stories then this might not be your cup of chai, but if the trailer makes you tear up or feel some feelings like it did for me, you better get on board real fast because the ride only gets better.
“What do you want for your 40th birthday?” Director Shonali Bose asked her sister (first cousin, really, but they’re close), Malini Chib. Malini (author of One Little Finger — guess what she typed that with) was born with cerebral palsy, an incurable neurological condition that weakens the muscles and limits body movement and muscle coordination. As the tongue is itself a muscle, speech may be garbled or impaired as one struggles to move their tongue to speak. Malini’s answer, however, came out loud and clear this time:
“I just want to have sex!”
“Sex is not all it’s cracked up to be,” is something along the lines of Shonali’s facetious and sort of dismissive reply, feeling too awkward and uncertain to address Malini’s sexuality. The awkwardness and uncertainty at Malini’s birthday wish, along with the tragic loss of Shonali’s 16-year-old son, fueled her pursuit to write a film that would capture the yearning Malini had felt growing up as well as the journey of loss and acceptance that Shonali had undergone in her own life.
19-year-old Laila (played by Kalki Koechlin, pronounced KUL-key CAKE-lah) is a college undergraduate at Delhi University, born with cerebral palsy. As a side gig she writes lyrics and provides electronic sounds for a band while crushing on the lead singer, Nima, whom she hits on. When he rejects her, she is devastated, but shortly after this rejection she is accepted to NYU on a scholarship, and Laila moves to New York where she explores herself and finally gets laid. While she’s able to navigate school and other mundane aspects of life independently (with a little help from her family and friends), it’s clear that Laila is a horny-ass teenager who hasn’t 100% figured out romance; within the first 10 minutes of the movie you see Laila check out a girl’s ass with her best friend Dhruv, avoid her crush at school, accidentally find porn on her laptop, and then masturbate to said porn — struggling to move her resistant limbs “downtown” to “visit the bat cave” — and then lure Dhruv into a quiet corner of the library to make out with him.
Laila is full of bold moves; when the host of the band competition condescendingly tells Laila’s band that they only made 1st place because of her disability, she flips the bitch off to resounding applause and then wheels offstage, where she tells Nima she’s into him. [quote_right]Laila is cerebral ballsy.[/quote_right]Despite crushing rejection, she gets to move to NY where she meets a hot classmate she later hits on, and then later meets bae, a blind political activist named Khanum. Bold is an understatement in describing this chick, actually — Laila is cerebral ballsy.
[quote_left]What I find really beautiful about Margarita is that it’s not about disability, or even about Laila’s sexuality — it’s about a horny teenager who struggles to find and accept herself.[/quote_left]We don’t see movies address the sexuality of people with disabilities, and it’s not really a hot topic of discussion among most people — even Laila’s mom had an “oh shit, here we go” face when Laila first mentions her crush on Nima. What I find really beautiful about Margarita is that it’s not about disability, or even about Laila’s sexuality — it’s about a horny teenager who struggles to find and accept herself. The normalcy with which human sexuality and disability is treated keeps the film from being preachy or a slap in the face, and allows for a beautiful tale of self-discovery and acceptance. Margarita with a Straw destroys the idea of what is to be “normal”; regardless of ability, gender, sexual orientation, or looks we all face the same struggles. We fear rejection, we want love. Margarita With a Straw lets you observe Laila’s self-discovery for yourself, letting you revel in her revelry. You laugh with her, you cry with her, and you get to see beyond a person bound to a wheelchair. The humor and lightness with which the movie presents its subjects strips away the lines between disabled and able-bodied people, presenting them simply — and exquisitely — as just people.
91% on Rotten Tomatoes and 7.9/10 on IMDB… I don’t know how many more reasons I can give you to get off your ass and watch this, so get off your ass, head to a limited-release screening, then get back on your ass, and watch this film! Or, alternatively, wait for the VOD release date on the 14th of June, stay on your ass, and get access to the movie via iTunes, Vimeo on demand, Amazon, and every other digital platform! Or wait for the DVD release date on the 28th of June, get off your ass, buy the DVD, come home, sit down on your ass, get up off your ass again because you forgot to put the DVD into the DVD player, sit back down on your ass, and then, finally, watch Margarita with a Straw. Just do it. You’ll have 0 regrets, you’ll have a great time, and you’ll have a margarita with a straw, served in a glass rimmed with the salt of your tears of laughter, sadness, and pure joy.
I got a chance to interview Shonali Bose, so stay tuned, because we’re publishing that shit within the next couple weeks!