When life has kicked you to the curb, the only ones you have to rely on are family. Such is the story of sisters Faith and Hope in Jody Mortara and Joe Gawalis’ family comedy, Cocoa.
Faith (Jody Mortara) and Hope (Megan McGarvey) are two sisters who have hit their financial rock bottom. Faith’s divorce has left her penniless, and Hope has decided to quit her go-nowhere job abruptly. With only each other to lean on, Faith reminds Hope that she used to make an amazing chocolate cake, and Hope remembers that she discovered a secret ingredient during her world travels that increased one’s metabolism. In other words, they could create a chocolate cake that will cause you to lose weight.
On the other side of town is Lucas (Cedric Gegel), the nephew of the town’s mafia don, Carmine (Tony Cucci). Lucas wants to be part of the family “business” and to prove himself to Carmine. Therefore, he needs to present a surefire business plan. Running full circle, Lucas immediately ingratiates himself with wealthy socialite Jacqueline Blackholly (Marian Edmiston). Jacqueline meets Faith and Hope to discuss funding their diet chocolate cake venture over dinner and ending with their signature calorie-consuming dessert. Lucas comes along as Jacqueline’s consultant.
After hearing the sister’s plans, Lucas decides to steal one of the cakes and present it to Carmine. Of course, Carmine orders Lucas to get a hold of that secret weight-loss ingredient at all costs. Opportunity strikes when Cocoa, Jacqueline’s dog, eats the chocolate cake and is rushed to the suspect veterinarian, Dr. Dogwood (Pat Swearingen). Now Lucas can ransack Hope’s home for the recipe. Adding to the hijinks is a bumbling terrorist and an intrepid news reporter Christina Portenza (Siena D’Addario).
“…they could create a chocolate cake that will cause you to lose weight.”
Cocoa is definitely not for everyone, as it has a specific audience in mind. It fits squarely in the family-friendly category where silliness abounds. Though the stakes sound high, our adventure is a very light, safe comedy. When it comes to comedy, I’m an Airplane! kind of guy. Cocoa is about as far from high art or dangerous dark comedy as you can get. I’d give Cocoa a six on a scale from one to ten. That’s not bad because the film is clearly shooting for a six. It’s a female-led production led by writer/director/star Jody Mortara, and she’s going for fun.
Speaking of fun, the acting is quite good. It’s weird to say this, but films with the budget and the stakes of Cocoa tend to hire friends and family as actors with minimal experience. In Cocoa, the cast is exceptional. No one is phoning their lines in, which means this cast believes in the film, and it shows. Every scene felt rehearsed; believe me, other indie comedies rarely put in the acting effort to be prepared. We’re not Strasberg here, but they had good performances nonetheless.
The bright spots in Cocoa are Jody Mortara and Megan McGarvey as Faith and Hope. They contrast nicely as sisters. Everyone likes to play the femme fatale as Faith is the famous sister who rode that popularity for most of her life, and Hope is the bubbly-optimistic not-as-popular sister. Of course, the two rely upon one another to find their happy ending.
Cocoa is one of those films you’d put on when your traditional American family comes over and wants to watch something silly and safe. Cocoa could easily find a home on the Hallmark or GAC Network.
For screening information, visit the Cocoa movie Facebook page.