Pitched at the broad tenor of a Lifetime film, "Margarita" offers what you’d expect from said network: surface inquiries into social problems, a few belly laughs, and acting that borders on the roughshod. But this Canadian production, from directors Dominique Cardona and Laurie Colbert, digs a bit deeper into its sociological set-up than most of what you see on basic cable.
Nicola Correia Damude features as the title character; a Mexican maid living illegally up north caring for a bourgeois middle-class white couple, Ben and Gail (Patrick McKenna and Claire Lautier) and their 14-year-old daughter Mali (Maya Ritter.) Her girlfriend Jane, a law student, rebuffs Margarita’s pleas for marriage; yet all is calm on the surface. Then the economy crashes in on everyone.
Ben and Gail decide to let Margarita go ("Mali’s 14; she can take care of herself," they convince themselves,) which creates an entire disastrous chain of events. Mali turns against her parents; Margarita seeks out a fake ID from a fellow undocumented immigrant, Ricardo, who’s in love with her; and soon a freak accident leaves her in the hospital - and in the hands of the Canadian Immigration Office.
The fact that Margarita is gay doesn’t factor into the plot much until the 3rd act; where the inevitable ’who-will-she-marry-to-stay-in-the-country’ angle pops up - though her orientation does provide for a few of the film’s biggest laughs. (Soon enough, Gail is chiding Ben for taking too close a look at their caretaker as she bends over the table. "She’s a lesbian," Ben retorts to his wife, "I’d have a better chance of having sex with you.")
It’s all competently crafted - no shaky handheld camerawork or dim, natural lighting here - but it’s also lacking in any surprises. The Lifetime-ness of it all holds strong through the end credits; which roll exactly at the 90-minute mark. The emotional peaks feel as though they’re designed to work around commercial breaks. Even the sex scene in this movie feels blocked for TV; covered up with cheap music and cut down to a couple of barely-there shadowy shots. Margarita’s sexy, but only in a TV-PG sort of way.
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