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Woman on Top (2000)
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Review Date: September 03, 2000
Director: Fina Torres
Writer: Vera Blasi
Producers: Alan Poul
Actors:
Penelope Cruz
Murilo Benicio
Harold Perrineau
Plot:
A story about love, motion sickness and the art of cooking. A strange description but certainly an accurate one. This film is about a beautiful woman who loves to cook but cannot allow others to "control" her, due to her motion sickness. She must always be "on top" of things. After finding her husband cheating on her, she flies off to San Francisco to start anew. An instant cooking star in America, she is eventually tracked down by her wayward husband and asked to love again. Will she? Can she? Should she? Find out...
Critique:
A cute comedic fantasy romance whipped out of a recipe with a pleasant bossa nova groove, a LIKE WATER FOR CHOCOLATE-type story, and dessert featuring the adorable Penelope Cruz. This film is very light on its feet. It doesn't take itself too seriously and doesn't ask that any audience member do either. It's filled with fun Brazilian tunes, bright colors, tasty settings, magical moments, easy humor and dashes of romance. It seems to be wrapped up in a neat little bow asking for you to love it, and with Penelope Cruz's enchanting charisma, it succeeded in tangling me in its web of fluffy amusement. Do the characters attain any deep states of consciousness? Not really. Is the ending telegraphed from scene one? Pretty much. But this isn't that kind of film. It's the type of movie that you see in order to "watch the pretty colors", or in this case, the pretty people, settings and cuisine. I enjoyed it all the way through. It was an easy watch, moved along at a rapid pace and presented just enough mystical mumbo-jumbo for me to buy into its fantastical elements.

Not sure if "regular" audiences are ready to accept the fantasy/comedy/romance combo, but I'm confident that this will find at least a certain niche of red-hot lovers out there. The one thing that is sure about this movie is that it's all about Penelope! She's glued to the camera for the entire picture, with close-ups, tight shots and body parts swaying across the screen throughout (no nudity though!). She makes this film with her wonderful smile, her cuter-than-Hayek accent and her oh-so seductive appeal. Is she a good actress? Sure. For what the role demands, she was perfect but certainly could've benefited from a few more third-dimensional characters around her. Everyone from her comic-relief-based best friend to her Antonio Banderas Jr. boyfriend was decent, but mostly underwritten. Ultimately, the film touches everything with a "light" brush. Light drama, light humor, light fantasy, light performances, a light soundtrack and a light ending. Personally, the film won me over with its top performance by Cruz and its groovy tunes. For those who have seen LIKE WATER FOR CHOCOLATE, consider this its light American cousin. Perfect for dates and those cozy late nites together in front of the VCR. A delicious fairy tale that goes down easy.
(c) 2017 Berge Garabedian
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