I’m only going to say this once: I don’t watch chick flicks. Is Woman on Top a chick flick? Er, yes. Is it also a movie about food? In my opinion, it is mainly a movie about food. And love. A warning: this movie has been slammed by critics as being cliched and “formula”. My take: delightful music, sensuous food scenes, and a touch of mysticism make it the equivalent of an easy read. Entertaining, but it’s not going to inspire you or elevate you to greater planes of thought. In all fairness, it doesn’t claim to. It’s a story, people, not a thesis!
Penélope Cruz stars as Isabella, a talented and passionate Brazilian chef. She suffers from acute motion sickness – while driving, dancing, even while having sex. The only way she can stay “on top” of the problem (sometimes, quite literally!) is to take control. Her Latin husband Toninho, who owns the restaurant, loves her deeply, but eventually sees her need to take the lead as an insult to his masculinity. He soothes his fragile male ego by jumping into bed for a one-night stand with a more pliable woman. Brokenhearted, Isabella walks out on him to rebuild a life for herself in San Francisco.
Enter Monica, Isabella’s fiercely loyal transvestite buddy from way back when. With Monica’s help, Isabella tries to find a job, but discovers that she has lost the ability to cook. She makes a pact with a sea goddess: she will forever give up her love for Toninho in order to regain her culinary skill and passion. Isabella becomes a phenomenally successful celebrity chef, wooed – and (predictably) exploited – by an ambitious TV producer looking to piggyback on her culinary genius.
Meanwhile, a repentant Toninho follows Isabella to SF, serenading her and trying to win back her love – but it’s too late. Or is it?
Cruz as Isabella and Harrold Perrineau Jr. as Monica are brilliant, and have several great scenes that convey the depth of their unlikely friendship; however, the actors who took on the roles of Toninho and the TV exec should, frankly, be broiled in hot oil.
If you’re looking for something cerebral, you need this movie like you need a hole in the head. If you’re looking for a simple, unpretentious movie with a dash of romance, a pinch of magic, a little slapstick and a lot of fun, it’s just the ticket for you. Note to the guys: Cruz is the most delicious dish in the movie.