Sometimes, in cinema, it is not always evident why two people are in a relationship. Excluding stories where that is the point, this serves as a distraction to the main thrust. Instead of focusing on the narrative, viewers are just trying to figure out why these two characters are together. Fortunately, for director Henry Barrial and writer Ron Jackson, no one will wonder why the central couple of Murder And Cocktails are married. The leads make instant sense with each other, even when they are verbally sparring.
Nick (Jason Bernardo) is a screenwriter who has had some success in the past. Unfortunately, he hasn’t sold a script in a while, so money is tight. His wife, Lana (Jessica Neufeld), had a prominent role on a soap opera before being written off. Now, she’s an editor. Nick sets up cameras around their lavish apartment and streams their daily lives to get a cash flow. This happens to the surprise of Lana. During the first night of the stream, the couple hears a gunshot in the hallway. Detective Barrett (Thurman Dalrymple) informs the two that their intended dinner guest is dead.
Nick and Lana are aghast at the cop’s poor skills and lack of empathy. So, they resolve to interview everyone on their floor and deduce who the killer is. To achieve this goal, Nick and Lana host cocktail hours with each neighbor individually. Will they find out who killed the person living next door? Will Nick sell his latest script?
“…they resolve to interview everyone on their floor and deduce who the killer is.”
Murder And Cocktails could skate by on the chemistry of Bernardo and Neufeld alone. They are perfectly cast together. The zingers and flirty barbs flow freely and feel natural. Yes, Nick and Lana tease each other and give one another a hard time. But it’s in that sweet way, where he can do it to her, and vice versa, but god help anyone else who tries. Individually, Bernardo and Neufeld are also quite strong. They are believable in their respective roles with killer comedic timing. But it is as a duo that they shine brightest.
Their co-stars are also tons of fun. Dalrymple is good as the beleaguered, exhausted detective. Ricardo Molina is hilarious as the too-serious-for-his-own-good real estate agent (of sorts) Esteban. As Rose, a soap-obsessed fan of Lana, Lucy Boryer is hysterical and a little creepy. Brian Lally is excellent as the quick-tempered Sgt. Russell. Alex Kip’s comedic timing as Alex is spot on.
Barrial does not limit his camera set-ups to the streaming aspect of the apartment. Throughout Murder And Cocktails, the camera switches from the static streaming ones to a more traditional one. Going back and forth does not break the pacing or tone, thankfully.
Bernardo and Neufeld are magnetic and playfully tease each other in a way that sells this couple’s history without a massive exposition dump. They are the glue that holds Murder And Cocktails together. Their co-stars also excel in their parts and bring the witty script to intriguing life. Barrial maintains the comedic tone masterfully, while Jackson wraps up his clever mystery in an enjoyable manner.
"…Bernardo and Neufeld are magnetic..."