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Movie Reviews

Woman On Top  

Isabella (Penelope Cruz)
Monica (Harold Perrineau, Jr.)
Toninho (Murilo Benicio)

Directed by Fina Torres Written by Vera Blasi
Rated R for strong sexuality, nudity and language
Running Time: 91 minutes Distributed by Fox Searchlight

Woman On Top
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Woman on Top is a terrible headache of a film. Isabella (Cruz) is a brilliant and talented chef that lives in Brazil with her husband Toninho (Benicio). Due to her instantaneous motion sickness, Isabella has to almost always have control of every situation, like driving and making love. This nature leads her husband to cheat on her practically right in front of her eyes. Now ready to start a new life, Isabella moves to San Francisco and moves in with her transvestite best friend, Monica (Perrineau). While teaching small cooking classes, Isabella's cooking talent catches the eye of a young television producer. He immediately gives Isabella her own cooking show that becomes an over night success. However, her past revisits her, with her husband arriving in San Francisco to try and earn her forgiveness. Woman on Top is just an awful movie that does not click on much of anything except some beautiful atmospheric shots.

Fina Torres durangely directed Woman on Top. Torres is a native of Venezuela that has received many awards for her last two films Oriane and Celestial Clockwork. I have read that both are good movies, but I have not seen them. If Torres' previous two films reflect anything close to Woman on Top, I don't want to waste my time watching them. There are just so many weak concepts in her direction of this film. One example is her use of special effects. She chooses to make Isabella's supposedly erotic and seductive cooking aroma floats through San Francisco as a computer-generated effect. The aroma looks exactly like the cheesy ghost from House on Haunted Hill. Also, the puppet-looking goddess of the sea that Torres used reminded me of something from Mr. Roger's Neighborhood. Aspects like these and the unconnection from movie to audience are what make Torres' direction really gray.

I know that a couple of weeks ago, I said that the script for Autumn in New York was one of the worst pieces of writing to come out of Hollywood this year. However, the script for Woman on Top is worse and might be the worst script of the year. Disastrous and dunce are two words that come to mind to describe Vera Blasi's script of this movie. The film does not open strongly at all and it just keeps getting worse and worse as it rolls on. I guess that the plot of the film is of one woman's journey to make it in the real world. Hopefully this isn't a spoiler, but by the end of the film, Isabella does not do what she sets out to do in San Francisco. Earlier I referred to Isabella's puppet god in the sea, which she prays to and worships throughout the film. The film lacks hardly any explanation of who or what the god is. I was just left unknowing and found this as one of the absolute stupidities of the film. Another really horrible part in the writing was Isabella's metaphor of how the smell of a pepper can work wonders and bring happiness. I won't say anymore about the writing except that it is poorly written.

I have heard so much praise of Penelope Cruz, who is supposedly an actress from Spain on the brink of stardom. I know that Isabella was Cruz's first English-language starring role, but I was not very impressed with her. She's not terrible, but I just found her to be lost in many of the scenes in the film. Maybe she will be better in All the Pretty Horses, which will be out in December. Harold Perrineau nearly overdoes his role as Isabella’s best friend Monica. He does have a few one-liners and easily delivers the best acting performance in the film, which isn't saying much. As for the rest of the cast, I saw them as flaky.

Woman on Top is one of the worst films of the year. Don't waste your money or time watching this picture. It will receive a lot of worst of the year nominations from me.

Report Card Grade: F

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