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Woman On Top

movie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Woman On Top

Starring: Penelope Cruz, Murilo Benicio
Director: Fina Torres
Rated: R
RunTime: 91 Minutes
Release Date: September 2000
Genres: Comedy, Romance

*Also starring: Jonas Bloch, Mark Feuerstein, Harold Perrineau Jr.

Reviewer Roundup
1.  Susan Granger review follows movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review
2.  Steve Rhodes read the review movie reviewmovie review
3.  Harvey Karten read the review ---

Review by Susan Granger
2½ stars out of 4

Spanish star Penelope Cruz is as intoxicating as Brazilian bossa-nova rhythms in Fina Torres's wannabe "Like Water for Chocolate" that also uses cooking as a metaphor for passionate romance. As Isabella, she's both cursed and blessed. She's cursed with severe motion sickness that forces her to be "in control" of her movement - driving, dancing and being on top when she makes love. Yet she's blessed with culinary genius, working as chef in a small seaside restaurant owned by her mucho-macho musician husband, Toninho (Murilo Benicio). But when she catches him in bed with another woman, she flees Bahia, seeking solace with her childhood friend, a transvestite (Harold Perrineau, Jr.) in San Francisco, where she's "discovered" by a TV producer (Mark Feuerstein) and becomes the sultry star of a local cooking show. Meanwhile, despondent Toninho is determined to win her back. So much for story. It's charismatic Penelope Cruz that fascinates. Curiously, she's not a traditional beauty; her thin nose is far too long. But she's stunning, radiant and utterly compelling, particularly when she sways to Luis Bacalov's Latino score. On the other hand, Vera Blasi's flimsy plot goes beyond disbelief, needing far too much voice-over narration. And Fina Torres' clumsy attempt at magical realism cannot compare with Alfonso Arau ("Like Water For Chocolate"), even with Thierry Arbogast's caressing cinematography. Aside from Murilo Benicio's realization that, without his wife, his life is barren, there is no character development. Harold Perrineau Jr. serves as comic relief, and Mark Feuerstein's fumbling ineptitude grows cloying quickly. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Woman on Top" is a frothy, sensuous 6, as ephemeral and enchanting as the aromas that waft from Isabella's cuisine.

Copyright 2000 Susan Granger

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