Woman On Top
Isabella (Penelope Cruz), a sultry beauty born with the special gift of melting the palates and hearts of men everywhere, decides to leave her husband after catching him in bed with another woman. She departs Brazil and heads for San Francisco in pursuit of her dreams of a culinary career. After arriving in the city by the bay, she reunites with her exuberant, cross-dressing childhood friend, Monica (Harold Perrineau, Jr.). Without much luck finding work in a restaurant, Isabella stumbles onto an opportunity to host a cooking show. Her repentant husband (Murilo Benicio) follows her to the States only to discover that she is now a successful television celebrity and that she has made a sacrifice to a Brazilian goddess in order to get her man out of her heart. So, who will triumph – the gods or true love?
There’s so much positive to say about this comic fairy tale. First, there is the music: a great bosa nova/samba beat not heard much in this day of hip-hop pop. Although this music has been as out of fashion in the U.S. as fedoras (those are hats you don’t wear backwards), the style has lingered secretly in the hearts of true romantics. Perhaps “Woman On Top” will rejuvenate an interest in this South-American beat. Then there is the romantic cadence, which lately has also taken a backseat in the arts to more edgy sensations. It brings back the moonstruck allure of the boy-meets-girl/boy-loses-girl format. And last, and certainly not least, is the enchanting presence of Penelope Cruz. She’s soft, smart and luminous. When making romantic comedies, it helps to have a woman of gentility and class cast as the production’s object of desire. Ms. Cruz definitely fits the bill. (Now watch, Ms. Cruz will probably play a foul-mouthed, murderous hooker in her next film. But I’d bet she could even do that with style and warmth). Unfortunately, the inclusion of two brief nude scenes and the peppering of objectionable language throughout keep this from being family entertainment. Also, the comic sidekick has become Hollywood’s tool to express an acceptance of a gay lifestyle. Here, the cartoonish gay man masquerades as a woman, uttering sexual witticisms and wisely setting the lead straight (so to speak). You should also be aware of the occultic practices, which include voodoo spells. Yemanja is an important goddess in Brazil. In this film, the two leads pray to her and offer up sacrifices to gain her favor. I mention this because a focus is placed upon the acceptance of this goddess, whereas the only reference to our God is, well, there is none, except for the three misuses of Christ’s name. “For all the gods of the nations are idols, but the Lord made the heavens.” 1 Chronicles 16:26. “You shall have no other gods before me.” Exodus 20:3.