Tortilla Soup

2001, Movie, PG-13, 102 mins


A Latin-inflected remake of Ang Lee's EAT DRINK MAN WOMAN, this vivid celebration of food and family is anchored by its strong cast. Widowed Los Angeles restaurateur Martin Naranjo (Hector Elizondo) has raised his three grown daughters by himself, and loves them all so fiercely it's all they can do not to be smothered. All three girls — prim, religious schoolteacher Leticia (Elizabeth Peña); strong-willed businesswoman Carmen (Jacqueline Obradors); and rebellious, boy-crazy Maribel (Tamara Mello) — still live at home and faithfully attend their dad's elaborate Sunday dinners. But all that's about to change. Carmen, who loves to cook but went to business school at her father's urging, has bought a condo in a nearby development and, as if that weren't bad enough, has been offered a job in Spain that she's seriously considering taking. Maribel will be going away to school in the fall, and she's met a footloose Brazilian heartbreaker named Andy (Nikolai Kinski, son of actor Klaus) who just might be the one for her. Even Leticia, the most conservative of the three, is in the thrall of a secret admirer at work. Meanwhile, Martin is being pursued with singular determination by flamboyant Hortensia (Raquel Welch), the much-married mother of recently divorced neighbor Yolanda (Constance Marie), who's making the difficult transition to single motherhood. As his daughters pull away, Martin finds himself wondering what he has to live for. He still misses his late wife; his best friend and partner, Antonio (Joel Joan), has had a heart attack; and Martin has lost his sense of taste — having devoted his life to cooking, he now takes no pleasure in eating and must cook from memory. But fate has some surprises in store for all the Naranjos. While this cheerful film has nothing particularly new to say about the ties that hold family members together even when they're driving each other crazy, it's a pleasure to watch such a talented ensemble at work. But talented though the actors are, they're regularly upstaged by the food: It's hard to watch Martin prepare one sumptuous meal after another (the film's food was supplied by celebrity chefs Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger, specialists in Mexican cuisine) without becoming hungry. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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