by Greg Muskewitz
With something of a relation or connection to Asian cinema, more so the Chinese, by recycling the original screenplay for Eat Drink Man Woman by Hui-Ling Wang, James Schamus and Ang Lee and giving it to Ramón Menéndez, Tom Musca and Vera Blasi to add a Spanish perspective, you end up with Tortilla Soup.For the most part, Tortilla Soup does nothing new with the material except to switch the Chinese cuisine for a Mexican one, and maybe add some trendy touches from 2001 that weren’t regulatory in 1994 (references to Pokémon, fashionable items like thongs: “The only thing I need flossed are my teeth”; etc.). The sisters’ problems and attitudes have all been expanded and let loose in an attempt to make their relationships cattier—not to mention that all three sisters, Elizabeth Peña, Jacqueline Obradors, and Tamara Mello, have varying degrees of Spanish accents, working its way in order of the above-listed from thickest to non-existent. Like the accents, the acting also varies in quality, but not necessarily in the same direction. Mostly, Tortilla Soup still reflects Ang Lee’s soap opera, though with the changed ingredients, it is also aimed as more of a sitcom. Notwithstanding the similarities and strong parallels kept, or certain traditions dumped, this has a few new constituents that work, such as the “red light kisses,” but most additions felt forced as if it were trying to grab for something to add distinction, therefore not making this totally a carbon copy. The bonding over smashing plates is silly and extravagant, and the unharmonized version of the sisters warbling “Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps” adds no sentiment either. The food gets top-billing, there’s no mistake of that, and so at least it gets its fair share of screen time considering the movie is about food! (Last time Blasi wrote a movie, the insipid Woman on Top, the food was completely miskened for Penelope Cruz’s charmlessness.) It also helps that the prepared dishes all look exquisitely scrumptious. One of the biggest detriments to this retelling is the way it is shot, very busily and always wobbly. The camerawork is terrible and erratic. Hector Elizondo is venerable as the father/chef who has lost his taste, but the whole movie feels like sloppy second helpings to Lee’s much more superior original (and neater) concoction.
"Sloppy second helpings."
Directed by María Ripoll. With Raquel Welch.Final Verdict: C-.
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=5510&reviewer=172
originally posted: 09/29/01 01:16:29