itself as a story of love, cooking and
motion sickness, WOMAN ON TOP is a pleasantly
flawed movieótasty but somehow unsatisfying.
Writer Blasi and Director Torres are by
no means the first to ponder the intersection
of corporeal hungers. Youíll be hard pressed
not to think of LIKE WATER FOR CHOCOLATE
or EAT DRINK MAN WOMAN (or even the lascivious
dining scene of TOM JONES) while watching.
ON TOP is a fairy tale, and, as in the
best fairy tales, fates or fairies bestow
upon the heroine both a blessing and a
curse. From infancy, Isabella (Cruz) has
been plagued by motion sickness. Her malady
is so severe that even an elevator ride
brings on nausea. Quelling it dictates
that Isabella must be in the driverís
seat for everything from modes of transportation
to sex. Since she canít get around much,
Isabella learns to cook, and becomes so
gifted that her dishes call people from
across town to eat them. One day, a serenader
appears below her balcony. In a trice,
Isabella and the smolderingly beautiful
Toninho (Benicio) fall in love and marry.
Toninho opens a beachside restaurant,
which becomes fabulously successful due
to Isabellaís dishes. They have good food
and good sex. Grateful as he is, though,
Toninho soon begins to feel that a man
is not a man unless he takes charge. So
he takes charge, in the good old missionary
position, of a curvaceous neighbor. Isabella
catches him in flagrante, packs her bags
and travels from Brazil to San Francisco,
where she moves in with her childhood
playmate, Monica (Perrineau). The distraught
Toninho curses the sea gods, causing fishers
to haul up empty nets and his restaurant
to founder, then sets off after Isabella.
rest of the movie involves Isabellaís
declaration of newfound independence from
Toninho, the parlaying of her culinary
talents into a TV series, a new potential
romance, the righting of a curse, and
a happy ending. Now that I look back on
it, it kind of sounds like an opera, doesnít
every delightful, magical, fairy-tale
moment, (and there are many) I was perplexed
by questions the script didnít bother
to address. Why is Isabella such a pawn
for ambitious producer Cliff (Feuerstein)?
Why isnít Monica more of a helpful pal
and less of a flamboyant stereotype? Why
doesnít Toninho go home? What, aside from
their obvious physical charms, made Isabella
and Toninho a couple in the first place?
And why should I root for Isabella to
get with any guy in the story?
more about those delightful moments. Soulful,
tormented Toninho gets to walk around
San Francisco with his own theme music.
Brazil and San Francisco, as realized
by Torres, are a virtual United Nations
of people of color. Cruz and Benicio are
pretty, pretty people. Although there
is no physical resemblance, Cruz has some
sort of Audrey Hepburn thing going on.
Plus, WOMAN ON TOP had the services of
a top-notch food stylist, who created
attractive dishes I could almost smell.
ON TOP is a just-adequate story, but a
great date movie, like a ho-hum entrée
surrounded by fantastic side dishes. I
was definitely hungry for something when
Bogucka, an Action Grrl!