"A story of love, motion sickness, and the art of cooking," Fina Torres's
WOMAN ON TOP stars the fetchingly gorgeous Penélope Cruz as a sexual Pied
Piper named Isabella Oliveira. Cooking food that draws men like flies to
honey, Isabella, after she leaves her cheating Brazilian husband, Toninho
(Murilo Benício), gets her own television cooking show in San Francisco.
Called "Passion Food Live," the show rockets to popularity with its
hot-pepper, aphrodisiac cuisine and its sweetly erotic star.
Cruz's performance is easily the best thing about the film and is the only
reason one might want to see the picture. Known for her work in foreign
language movies such as ALL ABOUT MY MOTHER, Cruz is a charming knockout.
With one of the most delicious accents that you've ever heard, her lines
come out sounding like they've been flavored with milk and honey. With her
mixture of childlike innocence and fiery passion, she couldn't have been a
more perfect match for what the movie should have been.
Filmed in lush tropical colors and loaded with dynamite food, the movie
looks like it should come with a caloric warning label. Surely, watching it
must be fattening.
Opening with "Once upon a time in the world of Bossa Nova, a girl was born -
Isabella," the film tries to be a romantic, adult fairy tale -- a big budget
version of LIKE WATER FOR CHOCOLATE crossed with BOSSA NOVA. But Vera
Blasi's thin script comes across as more silly than magical. Last year's
Sarah Michelle Gellar picture, SIMPLY IRRESISTIBLE, covered much of the same
ground but with more appeal. Except for the handsome cinematography, WOMAN
ON TOP plays like a made-for-TV movie.
The title comes from Isabella's need to be on top during sex, lest she get
motion sickness. (This is the cause of the breakup of her marriage since
her husband, who says that he has to be on top sometimes, is discovered by
Isabella in bed with a less positionally-challenged partner.) The story
gets remarkably little mileage out of the idea, concentrating almost
entirely on the sensual food angle.
Isabella's assistant on her culinary show is her friend Monica Jones (Harold
Perrineau Jr.), who is described as "5-foot-10, great legs, and she's a
man." The producer, Cliff Lloyd (Mark Feuerstein), falls head-over-heels in
love with Isabella, although his love of the almighty dollar proves to be
slightly stronger. Cliff's interest in Isabella is complicated by her
husband's showing up on the set, singing sad, soulful Brazilian love songs
WOMAN ON TOP isn't much, but it does get you excited about Cruz's next
English language film, ALL THE PRETTY HORSES. Hopefully her next project
will be a better showcase for her talent.
WOMAN ON TOP runs 1:33. It is rated R for some strong sexuality and
language and would be acceptable for older teenagers.
Copyright © 2000 Steve Rhodes