The Good: Background actors do a good job
The Bad: Utter lack of character development, First billed actors aren't acting, Not funny
The Basics: A sad attempt at sexy and funny fails to be both instead being an insulting blend of idiotic men and women who believe fate controls them in Woman On Top.
It's supposed to be difficult for a feminist to pan a film that is pro-woman, pro-choice. I'd like to laugh at all of my fellow feminists who tout Woman On Top as a wonderful example of a feminist film. The truth is, they're full of it. Woman On Top is not a feminist film. It is not a film about the strength of a woman and the importance of her decisions; it's about how stupid men are and how most think with their genitals. The protagonist, Isabella Oliveira, does not make so many decisions revealing her inner strength as she waits for the men in her life to come to their senses and realize she's important and begin to cherish her. In fact, Woman On Top is not a feminist treatise, Penelope Cruz is not the latest feminist; this is another romantic comedy where casting was done on t,l, and a. The "l," in case you didn't guess, is "legs."
Woman On Top is a romantic comedy (I use both terms lightly) wherein Isabella Oliveira leaves Brazil and her cheating husband for San Francisco. There she finds her newly released transvestite friend, Monica, and she meets Cliff Lloyd. Cliff, in addition to being ridiculously attracted to her, gets her a job as a chef on television. So, Isabella becomes involved with a strange love triangle between herself, Cliff and Toninho, who follows her to San Francisco to declare his love.
The first thing is, they're all utterly passionless. There's no chemistry between Cliff and Isabella, even less between Isabella and her husband. Everything is oversimplified. Cliff follows Isabella as part of a mob of men who simply begin following her down the street her one of her first days in San Francisco. He's solely attracted to her body and the truth is, if you've watched more than ten american films in your life, you've seen it before. She's thin, leggy, busty enough, clear skin, you name it. It's the typical Hollywood look woman.
The men in the film, they're all idiots. In addition to being utterly dazzled by Isabella, the men are simple and driven by one thing. It's pathetic. I demand better in my characters. Cliff goes from being so dazzled by Isabella to being more focused on his career, which doesn't read right considering one of his first lines is that he hates his life and work. The only male that has a good, consistent character is Alex, played by John de Lancie. He's consistent as a television exec always out to do what will make the show float.
The only woman that gives a decent performance is Anne Ramsay as the show's director. If you've never seen her name come up in association with this film here's why: she's a bit role. She's not focused on at all. That's how far down the ladder I had to go for a good female character. The only other performance of note is Harold Perrineau Jr. as Monica. He's convincing and funny as Monica.
Woman On Top suffers as most romantic comedies do from predictability. Add to that an element of superstition that completely destroys the idea of women empowering themselves, a series of bad performances and a complete lack of character development and you have an equation for a film not worth seeing.
For other movies starring Penelope Cruz, check out my reviews of:
Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
All The Pretty Horses
For other movie reviews, please check out my index page on the subject by clicking here!
© 2011, 2001 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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