By Merle Bertrand | April 22, 2001

When a group of young single moms sip half-price Happy Hour margaritas while discussing the number of abortions they’ve had as if it’s some sort of badge of honor, it’s pretty obvious that you’re not watching “Baywatch”. No, one shouldn’t expect to see director Ilya Chaiken’s gritty tough-love take on life after the first blush of womanhood pales making the rounds as a potential network TV pilot anytime soon.
Well, okay, Fox might do it, but they’d mutate the concept into something like a reality show where each single mom gets ten minutes to seduce an XFL linebacker, or something.
Be that as it may, the queen of this semi-regular gathering of not-that-long-ago prom queens is Zelda (riveting newcomer Eleanor Hutchins), a sketch artist reduced to illustrating porno-magazines. She lives in a cramped Brooklyn loft with her often drunk, endlessly brawling, endlessly aspiring but never quite succeeding poet boyfriend Max (Larry Fessenden), their toddler daughter Little Z (Jonah Leland), and a host of other young artist types. Another roommate adding to the confusion and underlying sexual tension is Natali (Holly Ramos). A cute but trippy recovering drug addict, Natali was also Zelda’s former lover back in their younger, wilder days.
Max still cares for Zelda, even though he seems to have lost the ability to show it. Yet, he also finds himself drawn to Natali, largely because she symbolizes what’s forbidden to him; the freedoms he’s lost because of Zelda and Little Z.
For her part, Zelda remains closest to her “mom friends,” who spend happy hour discussing their kids, their own mothers, health care woes, and, of course, what useless lousy scumbags most guys are. At least Zelda’s friends have devised a plan to join forces and move out of the city together. Zelda, on the other hand, is still stuck on what used to be between her and Max; still hoping he’ll eventually provide her with that white picket fence — or at least take her to Disneyland. With her friends leaving and Max growing more distant than ever, Zelda faces a choice as she feels the world closing in around her.
I never would have thought a film starring half a dozen sexy women at happy hour could be so depressing. The big kudos here go to casting director David Leslie, who peopled this film to perfection. Graziella (Barbara Sicuranza), Raquel (Amanda Vogel), Sofia (Macha Ross), and Marie (Kristen Dispaltro), along with Hutchins’ Zelda are totally believable as single moms. Haggard, stressed out, and cleaning up baby formula one minute, dressed to make a guy’s knees buckle the next, each of these actresses perfectly conveys the problems — and blessings — of single motherhood.
Unfortunately, they don’t have much to do. They talk a good game about lifetime arcs and moving forward. Yet, up until the very end of the film, there’s just not much not progression in the storyline. Instead, they’re running in place; their lives as full of doodling as Zelda’s sketch book. While that may be an accurate portrayal of single parenting life in New York, it doesn’t make for a very interesting film.
There are moments in this highly realistic and gloomy portrayal of former sex kittens turned single mothers that are quite good. At other times, the film lags badly. Highly uneven and inconsistent, then, “Margarita Happy Hour” kinda resembles the el cheapo margaritas served within.

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