Tortilla Soup

on August 24, 2001 by Tim Cogshell
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   A feast for the heart as well as the palate, "Tortilla Soup" is one of the best-tasting films of the year. The filmmakers, who include Spanish director Maria Ripoll ("Twice Upon a Yesterday") and writers Tom Musca ("Stand and Deliver"), Ramon Menendez ("Money for Nothing") and Vera Blasi ("Woman on Top"), designate their film as "inspired by" director Ang Lee's "Eat Drink Man Woman." This is an understatement. Minus a sub-plot or two, it's basically the same movie, reset in Los Angeles and recast with an ensemble of beautiful and talented Latin actors.

   Martin, a master chef played by veteran character actor Hector Elizondo, works to maintain the traditional values of his family and his Mexican kitchen. He's having a hard time with both. His taste for food has abandoned him, and his daughters are beyond his control. Carmen (Jacqueline Obradors), Maribel (Tamara Mello) and Leticia (Elizabeth Pena) would love to please their stoic father, but they need to follow their own desires. This provides the substance for a storyline that's as full of passion and fire as the dishes Martin prepares for his traditional Sunday dinners. Maribel, the youngest, is an iconoclast who feels her family does not listen to her. She falls for Andy (Kikola Kinski--son of the late Klaus Kinski) and announces she's moving out of the family home to live with him. Leticia, the eldest daughter, tries to maintain the traditional family life, including a newfound religious devotion. But when the new baseball coach at the high school where she teaches shows an interest, her fires are soon stoked as well. The middle daughter, Carmen, is most like her father. Stubborn and successful, she's determined to live her own life. What she'd really like to do is what her father does--prepare the most exquisite food in the universe. But all of her recipes are new and innovative, and her father thinks of them as little more than "tasty mutts."

   Like the previously mentioned "Eat Drink Man Woman," or the equally delicious "Like Water for Chocolate," "Tortilla Soup" is about more than just food. It's about the things that hold families together: passion, love, tradition and change. It's not a movie that hasn't been seen before, but it resonates with sincerity and good humor nonetheless.    Starring Hector Elizondo, Jacqueline Obradors, Tamara Mello, Nikolai Kinski, Joel Joan, Paul Rodriguez, Elizabeth Pena and Raquel Welch. Directed by Maria Ripoll. Written by Tom Musca & Ramon Menendez and Vera Blasi. Produced by John Bard Manulis. A Goldwyn release. Comedy. Rated PG-13 for sexual content. Running time 103 min.

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