Woman on Top – A Creative and Intelligent Romp
Isabella, the lead character played by Penelope Cruz, instructs her cooking students:
I think that to cook well, you must bring all your feelings and experience to the act of creation.
Let’s start with my passion . . .”
This movie is a fun romp. It at times has a feeling of a light 1950s or 60s romantic comedy, intentionally overstated and overbroad. The actors consistently overact as if they were beamed forward in time from some bygone era.
A primary comic device in this film is that Isabella has severe motion sickness; and therefore, she cannot ride in a car, dance, or make love unless she is driving or leading. When she arrives in San Francisco, after leaving her husband after watching him make love to another woman, she cannot ride passively in a taxi, so she bribes the taxi driver so she can drive the taxi herself through San Francisco’s steep and curvy streets. Very funny.
Isabella is a chef who has been underappreciated. As the plot develops, Isabella ritually burns her old husband’s photo and throws away all her connections to him.
After she gets on her own, she becomes a wildly successful cooking show host. She gets her mojo back, and suddenly & ridiculously, hundreds of men start to pursue her.
Her husband finds her and tries to reunite with her. He changes many of his domineering ways.
She says, “Why couldn’t you have been like this before?”
“I don’t know. But I’m like this now.”
“Now is too late.”
“Kiss me, then tell me that.”
They kiss, but don’t reunite. The question of whether they can reunite drives us forward in the story. And maybe even more key to the plot’s specific resolution are the questions of: “Can their chemistry become remarkably creative again? Can their combinations cook again? Does their chemistry still arouse the worlds around them?”
The movie is about the importance of each individual determining their own path instead of deferring too much to the wants of any one culture, one lover, or one familiar. How the plot resolves is not so important, except that Isabella chooses her own paths and becomes creative in activities and patterns better suited to her wants and the wants of her communities.
The movie is like Isabella’s cooking advice at the end of each cooking instruction:
“And the last and most important ingredient is to share it with someone you love.”
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