Main cast: Penélope Cruz (Isabella Oliveira), Murilo Benício (Toninho Oliveira), Harold Perrineau Jr (Monica Jones), and Mark Feuerstein (Cliff Lloyd)
Director: Fina Torres
Oh dear. Woman on Top, despite its feminist roar of a title, is a whimsical romantic comedy ruined by its sexist overtones. Also, this movie loses steam and becomes a tired, plodding, and rather silly thing after the first hour.
Isabella Oliveira is a woman so beautiful she stops traffic. Unfortunately, she also suffers from motion sickness and hence has to take control and be the boss in everything she does – driving, dancing, and bonking her hubby Toninho. Toninho, feeling emasculated, embarks on an affair where he can be on top. The silly man isn’t too subtle, however, and wifey catches him at it.
Bella then packs up and flies to San Francisco to commiserate with her drag friend Monica. There’s this nice scene where Monica and Bella share a bubble bath together – it’s a remarkable testament of heterosexual/homosexual friendship for a Hollywood production. Bella stops traffic and has men trailing her when she walks out, so no wonder she lands herself a job as a TV cook. Her cookery show is watched by men all over because she makes her show look like a PG-rated sex show (really!) and the camera’s inexplicable tendency to focus on her chest. Bella’s a hit.
Life is okay, until Toninho appears to win her back.
The thing is, it is so clear that Bella wouldn’t be able to get her life back after leaving Toninho if she isn’t beautiful. Oh, Penélope Cruz is beautiful – the lighting caresses her skin and makes her shine like one of those naked angels in a Raphaelite painting. But the movie focuses on her beauty so much it reduces Bella into an object.
The more the movie progresses, the inevitable usual problems crop up: the pressure of fame (oh!), the test of friendship, the Other Man who just isn’t as exciting as the hubby… nothing new here. Without a decent script, the movie’s over reliance on Ms Cruz’s beauty and whimsical over-the-top magical moments just can’t hold it together.
Like a beautiful but hollow painting, Woman on Top is nice to look at at first, but it lacks the emotional impact to keep me interested in it for long.