Tortilla Soup

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Movie Review by Annabel Bayross

Starring: Hector Elizondo, Jacqueline Obradors, Tamara Mello, Constance Marie, Nikolai Kinski

Director: Maria Ripoll

Directed by Maria Ripoll, TORTILLA SOUP is a Latino-American film executively produced by Samuel Goldwyn Jr. The whole inspiration for this film was taken from Ang Lee’s EAT DRINK MAN WOMAN (1994). Goldwyn Jr says of TORTILLA SOUP: “By highlighting those themes and changing the setting to America, we open up a whole new world.”

Martin Naranjo, (Hector Elizondo) a widower and the father of three daughters is a firm believer in family tradition and cultural heritage insisting that as a family they should all enjoy Sunday lunch together. But not a Sunday lunch as we know it; the Naranjo family sit down to an elaborate feast of scrumptious Mexican food every Sunday.

Martin (PRETTY WOMAN, THE PRINCESS DIARIES) is a classically trained chef who is losing his sense of taste and smell. Hours are spent lovingly preparing course after course only to have his middle daughter Carmen (Jacqueline Obradors) criticise his cooking under her breath (maybe she knows better?) How anyone could complain about this sumptuous weekly banquet though, god only knows.

It seems like quite a trying time getting all three daughters together. The youngest, Maribel (Tamara Mello) is all set on going to college until one ordinary Sunday, just before lunch is served, her path crosses with a sexy Brazilian boy who manages to convince her to join him for a coffee. Would she dare turn up late for lunch? Carmen, an attractive and successful highflying businesswoman, has just been offered an amazing job abroad; having to break the news to her father is going to be hard. Carmen, who has a no-strings attached sexual relationship with an ex-boyfriend, is the antithesis of her eldest sister Leticia (Elizabeth Pena), a prudish school teacher who’s only real passion in life is her devotion to God. We are also treated to a rather grotesque ‘mutton dressed as lamb’ character Hortensia (Raquel Welch) who plays the brazen mother of Leticia’s friend. Hortensia tries her hardest to be noticed by Martin.

Every mealtime a member of the family seems to have an ‘announcement’ to make which ends in spoiling the day because once these announcements have been voiced a family row will inevitably ensue. This becomes a running joke throughout the film and you really feel for Martin as all his effort and meticulous hard work goes to pot (incidentally the dishes were prepared under the guidance of two renowned Mexican-Latin chefs, known as the Too Hot Tamales.)

TORTILLA SOUP focuses on the tensions between family and the outside world. Traditionalist verses modernist. This is shown through Carmen’s keenness to experiment with the old flavours of Mexican cooking. Adding modern twists that her father is reluctant to approve of. It’s a light-hearted, slightly amusing rehash of EAT DRINK MAN WOMAN but without such critical questionings. The focal point of this film is food, and believe me, it is a visual feast for the eyes. Guaranteed no matter how big a meal you’ve eaten before watching this movie, you will be left feeling ravenous.

3 out of 6 stars