Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Woman on Top

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Woman on Top

Article excerpt

Woman on Top * Written by Vera Blasi * Directed by Fina Torres * Starring Penelope Cruz, Harold Perrineau Jr., and Murilo Benicio * Fox Searchlight

In the world according to romantic comedy, society is divided into the slaves of love and the slaves of lovers. The former are invariably gorgeous and well dressed, aesthetic advantages that compensate for the fact that they are either a little potty or a lot boring. The latter are never dull, because they have refined the art of irony to compensate for the poetic fascism that dictates they can never be as lovely or nattily attired as the lovers they serve. Such rules also command that the slaves of lovers never fall in love themselves or do anything that would otherwise upstage the amorous aspirations of their mistresses and masters.

In the old comedies of Plautus and Shakespeare, these people were, quite literally, slaves. In the farces of Doris Day and Rock Hudson, they were Thelma Ritter and Tony Randall. In the post-Doris entertainments of today, they are queer.

The homo-ization of romantic comedy alters the rules to the extent that the new transgender slaves of lovers are now entitled, if not expected, to be fabulously costumed. They also might have romantic rewards in store for themselves. Such is the case with Harold Perrineau Jr., who plays a San Francisco transvestite with a penchant for tall, blinding head-dresses in Fina Torres's Woman on Top. (Perrineau has never done much for me in trouser roles, but he makes a wonderful drag queen; being a woman seems to bring out the man in him).

As Monica Jones, Perrineau lives to gratify the needs of the bewitching Penelope Cruz (Almodovar's pregnant nun in All About My Mother). Cruz's character, Isabella, has blown into town from Bahia, Brazil, after having been jilted by her husband, Toninho (the comparably breathtaking Murilo Benicio). …

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