Woman On Top
|Harold Perrineau Jr.||Monica|
|Directed by||Fina Torres|
Blame it on the Olympics. No distributor wants to risk opening anything good this week, because they figure everyone?s home watching synchronized swimming and beach volleyball from down under. NBC, meanwhile, is taking a ratings beating. Where is everybody? Abducted by aliens?
Fox Searchlight?s sacrificial lamb is a relatively inoffensive bit of derivative fluff called ?Woman On Top?, starring Pen?lope Cruz (?All About My Mother?) as Isabella, a Brazilian chef with motion sickness. She gets nauseous when she?s riding or being ridden; for everything from cars to sex she has to be in the driver?s seat.
When her husband Toninho (Murilo Benicio) craves the missionary position, she catches him in flagrante delictu, and promptly decamps for San Francisco. She bunks in with her old transvestite friend Monica (Harold Perrineau Jr.), and solicits the sea goddess (by phone) to cast a spell to remove the cheating bastard from her affections. She lands a cooking show on San Francisco TV. People fall in love with her. Toninho comes to Frisco to get her back. Nobody cares. Her show goes national, but the creeps from network mess with the formula. Hum-de-ho-de-hum.
The story is full of moments that reveal a careless attitude toward the material and the audience. When Isabella walks down the street in San Francisco, men follow her like cats after a fish, but only once; the rest of the time they pretty much leave her alone. When Monica accompanies her to the beach for an offering to the sea goddess he carries a dog, but there?s no dog at their apartment. When Isabella runs after Toninho and gets sick because she had to take the elevator, she is foiled because he?s turning the corner by the time she reaches the street. Everybody speaks English with a Brazilian accent.
?Woman On Top? is a by-the-numbers attempt at a ?Like Water for Chocolate? confection of cookery and magic realism that comes out more like last year?s half-baked Sarah Michelle Gellar culinary vehicle, ?Simply Irresistible?. The screenplay is a first try by Vera Blasi, who was a film student when she wrote it, but director Fina Torres (?Celestial Clockwork?) has no such excuse.
They seem to be under the delusion that by calling something magic you make it magical. The movie tries to survive on the wattage of Cruz?s considerable appeal, but it?s just not considerable enough. It does get some lift from a lively and knowing drag performance from Harold Perrineau Jr. (Mercutio in ?William Shakespeare?s Romeo + Juliet?), and it gets plenty of help from Luis Bacalov?s wonderful Bossa Nova soundtrack featuring various Brazilian artists. But its charm never rises above the calculated level of the gift shop at Disney World.
© Text 2007 Jonathan Richards - Filmfreak.be