WOMAN ON TOP
Release Date: September 22, 2000
Starring: Penelope Cruz, Murilo Benicio,
Harold Perrineau Jr., Mark
Feurstein, & John de Lancie
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Audience: Older teenagers & adults
Runtime: 83 minutes
Distributor: Fox Searchlight Pictures
Director: Fina Torres
Executive Producer: Augusto Case
Producer: Caique Martins Ferreira
Writer: Vera Blasi
Address Comments To:Fox Searchlight
20th Century Fox Film Corp.
A Division of Fox, Inc.
10201 West Pico Blvd., Bldg. 38
Los Angeles, CA 90035
Phone: (310) 369-4402
The movie begins with Isabella (Penelope Cruz) as a beautiful little girl whose only shortcoming is that she has been afflicted with motion sickness from birth. However as she grows up she discovers that her bouts with motion sickness have been compensated abundantly by a fantastic culinary gift for some original and delicious, even sensual, spicy dishes. Upon reaching adulthood, Isabella finds the man of her dreams while searching for a job as a cook in her native Brazilian town. The two get married in a whirlwind of passion and food, but they soon discover that all is not peaches in their Brazilian paradise.
Isabella is very unhappy because she is relegated to the kitchen full time while Toninho (Murilo Benicio), her charming husband, has a grand time on the main floor of his restaurant mingling with all the guests. To make matters worse, Ruth’s motion sickness extends to their bedroom, and Toninho is not very happy with the required solution to the problem. In response to the new arrangements, Toninho seeks his own accommodation by engaging in extramarital escapades with his female neighbors.
Unhappily for Toninho, it doesn’t take Isabella very long to get wind of her husband’s activities and catch him right on the act. With their marriage on the rocks, Isabella leaves Toninho to pursue some job contacts she had in the United States and start a new life. At first, all the doors seem to be firmly closed while Isabella continues to hold strong feelings for her husband keeping her from becoming completely free of her past. In her frustration, Isabella turns to Monica (Harold Perrineau, Jr.), her transvestite roommate who helps her prepare a magical incantation that will rid her of any remaining feelings for her husband. Right about that time, Toninho arrives in the US to try to salvage the marriage.
Isabella, meanwhile, succeeds in shedding any remaining love she may have had for Toninho and to express her newly found freedom she cooks a terrific meal, so good in fact that as the aroma seeps through the building and down the street. It has the power to mesmerize everyone whose nose comes into contact with it, including Cliff (Mark Feuerstein), a young television producer who falls head over heels for her. What follows is a series of conflicts driven by the characters’ romantic passions as Isabella becomes an overnight success with her own television cooking show, and Toninho intensifies his efforts to get her back, while Cliff tries to derail his attempts.
WOMAN ON TOP, feminist metaphors aside, as a sweet romantic comedy succeeds on many levels. Often the photography has the texture and look of a finely composed painting, and the whimsical nature of some of the special effects are a delight and thoroughly enjoyable. The dreamy Brazilian music is both enchanting and alluring, and Penelope Cruz brings an unpolished beautiful look to the screen which credibly fits her role and helps this fantasy become real. Murilo Benicio, on the other hand, does not quite measure up to his co-star, but he makes up for it with a boyish, hurt puppy type of charm. Mark Feuerstein as Cliff Lloyd is likable, but thoroughly forgettable as the young television producer who discovers Isabella, probably not so much as a result of his acting abilities, but rather due to the writer’s lack of concern for his role. Harold Perrinau, Jr. gives a good performance as Monica, Isabella’s transvestite sidekick. One can only pray that he would find the light of truth to allow him to redirect his considerable acting skills to better use.
WOMAN ON TOP could have been produced as a charming and sweet new independent movie to put a smile on your face and a warm fuzzy feeling in your heart. Regrettably, it has been built instead on a fatal foundation of paganism, immorality, sexual perversion, and occultism which makes it as poisonous as Three Mile Island once was.
WOMAN ON TOP could have been produced solely as a charming and sweet new independent movie to put a smile on your face, and a warm fuzzy feeling in your heart. Regrettably, it has been built instead on a fatal foundation of paganism, immorality, sexual perversion, and occultism, which makes it as poisonous as Three Mile Island once was. The movie also includes some sexual nudity