María Ripoll's TORTILLA SOUP wastes no time in getting to the star of the show,
the food. In the opening credits, the father, like a Samurai, furiously slices
and dices the wonderfully colorful cuisine.
Inspired by Ang Lee's EAT DRINK MAN WOMAN, the story has been moved to L.A. and
the ethnic cuisine switched to Mexican. A chef, Martin Naranjo (Hector
Elizondo), who has lost his ability to taste and smell, lives with his three
grown daughters, school teacher Leticia (Elizabeth Peña), young executive Carmen
(Jacqueline Obradors) and soon-to-be college student Maribel (Tamara Mello).
The center of their life is the dinner table at which eating is regularly
interrupted by one of them saying, "I have an announcement." This inevitably
sets off another sweet squabble.
The dialog is uniformly cute. Typical is the interchange between Maribel and
her father when she drops the bombshell that she's thinking of postponing
college. He asks politely but firmly why she is considering the change. "I
want to find myself," she replies. "Well, you won't have to look far," he tells
her with a fatherly blend of sarcasm and concern.
When they're not feasting (their meals for four look like royal banquets for
twelve), the women bicker with each other. They also love each other, and one
of the loveliest episodes has them in the kitchen, breaking dishes and singing.
The casting of the four leads is terrific, and they're so close that you'd swear
that they were related in real life. Every family should have such a loving
There's not much wrong with this carefully prepared confection. Raquel Welch,
as the father's new girlfriend, can't keep up with the others' acting abilities.
A more substantial problem is Xavier Pérez Grobet's grainy cinematography. The
sumptuous food deserves a better presentation. But you'll forget the flaws.
You'll leave happy and hungry.
TORTILLA SOUP runs a bit long at 1:40. It is rated PG-13 for "sexual content"
and would be acceptable for kids around 10 and up.
Copyright © 2001 Steve Rhodes