An obligatory media blurb for Tortilla Soup could go: “take a taste of Tortilla Soup and loosen your inhibitions.” Though the film does feature savory dishes and Raquel Welch as a hot-to-trot Latin abuela, fetishists will be sourly disappointed by the film’s refusal to liken food to an aphrodisiac. Director Maria Ripoll’s take on the food drama seemingly proves that the more conservative or homogeneous the culture the more important food is to its backbone. (A gringo version of Soup with a family gathered around a table full of hamburgers and french fries seems like the most unromantic film that could ever pitched.) More importantly, though, the film, however fleeting, is a proud ode to Latino families and their guarded acclimation into American society. Hector Elizondo stars as Martin, a cook and traditional family man with a few cracks developing in his anal retentive persona, no thanks to the hot-headed daughters whose panties are strewn all over the house before pictures of their dead mamacita. Though the apples don’t fall too far from the tree, the uptight daughters welcome rebellion a tad sooner than the old goat. However dopey some of the characterizations may be, Ripoll authentically evokes the complexity and range of inter-familial Latino strife. Letitcia (Elizabeth Pena), Martin’s eldest daughter, is a spinster-in-the-making who seemingly takes after her mother. She learns that rebellion is a shattered dish away and ultimately accepts the love of a fellow school worker (Paul Rodriguez). She’s a chemistry teacher so you could say her emotional enlightenment is not unlike a “chemical reaction.” Businesswoman Carmen (Jacqueline Obradors) is the over-achieving middle daughter who must differentiate emotional rewards from monetary ones on her way to nurturing a lifelong dream of becoming a cook and owning her father’s acceptance. Maribel (Tamara Mello) is the rebel who shacks up with a Brazilian hottie and brings to light many of the film’s more crucial racial dilemmas. Martin’s restaurant is called Nuevo Latino, which evokes both the differences between Martin and his children and the differences between Martin and his own parents. More interestingly, though, is the film’s observation that Spanglish is a threat to traditionalist thinking and how Martin must accept the über-language as an inevitable result of Anglo-Latino homogenization. The film’s liberal and improv-heavy use of Spanish is so remarkably performed by the all-Latino cast that all the English dialogue might as well have been done away with. Tortilla Soup is airy and therefore fleeting but it’s nonetheless a sight for sore eyes.
- Samuel Goldwyn Films
- 110 min
- María Ripoll
- Ramón Menéndez, Tom Musca, Vera Blasi
- Hector Elizondo, Elizabeth Pena, Jacqueline Obradors, Tamara Mello, Paul Rodriquez, Constance Marie, Raquel Welch
- Slant is reaching more readers than ever before, but advertising revenue across the Internet is falling fast, hitting independently owned and operated publications like ours the hardest. We’ve watched many of our fellow media sites fall by the way side in recent years, but we’re determined to stick around.
We’ve never asked our readers for financial support before, and we’re committed to keeping our content free and accessible—meaning no paywalls or subscription fees. If you like what we do, however, please consider becoming a Slant patron.
You can also make a one-time donation via PayPal: