Woman on Top (1999) - Synopsis
Isabella (PenÚlope Cruz) and Toninho (Murilo BenÝcio) are blissfully happy living in a port city in Bahia, on the northeastern coast of Brazil. Isabella loves Toninho madly, and she stirs his passions with meals that she has learned to cook with native spices, natural herbs, local ingredients and a magic all her own that turns them into extraordinary gifts to the senses.
But Toninho (pronounced To-nee-nyo) and Isabella run a restaurant where her culinary arts are hidden in the kitchen, while his musical talents and personal charm are on display in the dining room nightly. Still, Isabella can live with his ego - so long as Toninho can live with her little affliction: she is subject to terrible motion sickness. She must drive when they take the car out; she must walk when he would rather take the elevator; she must lead when they dance. And when they make love, she must be on top.
A man's ego can only stand so much, and Toninho's finally gets the better of his good judgment. When Isabella catches him with another woman, she is inconsolable. She impulsively packs her belongings and flies off (airsick all the way) to the United States, to live with her friend Monica (Harold Perrineau Jr.).
Isabella's closest chum since childhood, Monica (Harold Perrineau Jr.) is a high-spirited transvestite who has established her own lifestyle in San Francisco, and is resolved to help Isabella do the same. But first, Isabella needs a job, and even with her unique culinary skills, becoming a chef in a strange new city is not easy.
Second, and more difficult still, she must stop pining for Toninho. Turning to the traditional ways of Candomblé (the Bahian version of Santeria), she appeals to Yemanja - goddess of the sea, and a compassionate ally in matters of the heart. Isabella prepares an offering, takes it to the sea shore, and begs the deity to erase forever her love for her philandering husband. The very next day, Isabella feels like a new woman - free, and possessed of a magical, mesmerizing allure.
Isabella has found part time work as a cooking instructor at an adult education program. One day, Cliff (Mark Feuerstein), an ambitious young television producer, catches wind of one of her homemade delicacies, catches sight of her beauty, and falls in love with her. Inspired by her radiance, he has an idea: he will make Isabella the star of her own nightly cooking program and, in the process of running her career, maybe he can have some influence on the rest of her life - by including himself in it. Isabella's blend of exotic sensuality and culinary skills makes the show an instant sensation. "Passion Food Live" becomes the talk of San Francisco, and soon enough the national network people take notice.
But all is not as rosy as it seems. The penitent Toninho has abandoned his restaurant to chase after his wife, and has inserted himself - along with a traveling band of Bahian troubadours - as the wildly popular musical accompaniment on Isabella's show. And Cliff, fueled by his ambitions, gradually begins to wrest control of "Passion Food" away from its star. In the midst of all her success, Isabella is miserable: she has forsaken the true love that had once made her feel whole, and has lost control of her own life once again.
Eager to reclaim her vanished passion, Isabella seeks help from her guardian goddess, Yemanja, and friend Monica. But she soon discovers, the path to happiness must be discovered by her alone.
Set to the intoxicating rhythms of Brazilian music and filled with color, food, passion, and magic, WOMAN ON TOP is a sexy comedy about making relationships more delicious.