By Andrea Karen Hammer
Billed as a “delightful film,” Tortilla Soup (2001) is a touching family-centered comedy for food lovers, which stands the test of time.
From the moment this movie begins, close-ups of the central star–food–are riveting. As the Mexican-American chef-father pouring love into the carefully prepared and lavish feasts for his three daughters, Martin Naranjo (Hector Elizondo from The Princess Diaries and Chicago Hope) is equally mesmerizing. His understated delivery and controlled outer expressions belie the full under-the-surface emotion later reflected in a living-room dance with the hot-to-trot widow Hortensia (Raquel Welch).
At first, Raquel Welch seems like an unusual choice for the role. Her colorful appearance and overt interest in Martin, who lost his wife 18 years ago, is completely opposite to his low-key style. In the end, Raquel Welch’s often over-the-top character adds spice and humor to the otherwise seamless cast.
Three At-Odds but Always Loving Daughters Seeking Independence
Martin’s three daughters don’t resemble each other physically but are completely convincing as three sisters seeking independence in their own right. The eldest daughter, Carmen (Jacqueline Obradors), butts heads most directly with her father while secretly longing for his approval. Jacqueline Obradors holds and expresses these polar motivations skillfully, particularly when cooking spicier versions of her father’s recipes– helping him regain his ability to taste food and zest for life.
Elizabeth Pena plays the spiritually guided, strait-laced middle daughter, Leticia, with buttoned-up fervor. When coach Orlando Castillo (which Paul Rodriguez shapes with humor and tenderness) lands at the school where she teaches, he helps unleash Leticia’s hot-blooded side–to everyone’s surprise and delight.
Tamara Mello portrays the youngest “lost” daughter, Maribel, with easy-going charm. In one of the most memorable kitchen scenes, Maribel (Tamara Mello) encourages her sister Leticia (Elizabeth Pena) to let loose by breaking some dishes. As the often at-odds but always loving three sisters sing and dance their way through the shattered and symbolic mess, they fortify their bond and ability to laugh together.
Commitment to Cultural Traditions Including La Familia in Delicious Film
While Martin (Hector Elizondo) continually reminds his daughters to speak Spanish or English rather than a mixture of both, a commitment to cultural traditions including la familia makes Tortilla Soup a deliciously entertaining family-centered comedy to watch.