Woman on Top (2000) Poster


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Easy on eyes and ears....fun film
chemingineer24 January 2001
This is a fun film and has several things going for it. Firstly it is sexy without being vulgar, proving that comedy without vulgarity is feasible. Secondly it is easy on the eye (Penelope) and the ears (Latin Rhythms). Thirdly, it is a fairy tale, both in content and format and hence totally unbelievable. And like all fairy tales, this one too has a moral...which is for the viewers to discover. The best thing about the movie it its old world charms, which is so endearing. Though eminently forgettable once you are out of the cinema hall, while inside, it is worth every minute of yours.

Recommended to take along someone you love.
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It's gonna be one hot summer.
Jessica Carvalho27 December 2005
Warning: Spoilers
''Woman on Top'' is not a big movie. In fact, it's a little silly and easy to be guessed, although it has some nice elements to be showed. I am a Brazilian girl,so for me, it's nice to see a movie who tells a little bit about my country's story or traditions. But if you are a foreigner, please, do not think that all the cities of Brazil are like Bahia or have the same habits. Not everybody here practices Camdoblé as well. The best character of this movie got to be Harold Perrineau in the role of Monica: the guy had a complete transformation to be like a transvestite! And he has a great performance, I do need to say! Well, only brazillians who are going to watch this movie are going to see some famous faces around here, like Lazaro Ramos or Daniele Suzuki.
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Penelope Cruz displays her beauty and abundant talent
Amy Adler2 January 2004
Isabella (Penelope Cruz) meets her soul mate in her native Brazil, marries him, and becomes the renowned chef at his restaurant. She suffers from motion sickness so she insists on driving the car, leading in a dance partnership and more. Husband Toninho (the handsome Murilo Benicio) tires of being second in command and develops the roving eye syndrome. Stunned by her husband's actions, Isabella flees Brazil and travels to San Francisco. Once there, she catches the eye of a television producer who helps her become a small-screen celebrity with her own cooking show. Out of the blue, ex-husband Toninho arrives and wants his wife back. What will she do?

Penelope Cruz shines in the leading role; she's drop dead gorgeous and gives an irresistible performance. Benicio, also, initiates flutters in the hearts of any female viewers with his charming persona. The movie has many humorous plot elements (a cross-dresser, catty television employees) that keep the plot interesting. Those seeking an entertaining movie with charm and chuckles will be delighted to happen upon this lesser known movie.
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Penelope Is Pretty, But Script Is Stupid
ccthemovieman-118 September 2006
This started off very well....really well...and slowly got stupid, very stupid. The film is a fantastic vehicle, however, for Penelope Cruz to show us her beauty. The two men chasing her are all right, neither one particularly annoying.

The annoying part isn't the actors, it's the script. In this story, you can pray - and get a positive response - to the "sea goddess" - while other ridiculous curses and superstitions abound. Also, a lead character in here - portrayed as perfectly normal - is a transvestite. Despite these strange doings, the film has charm and beautiful, bold colors to it. If only the story wasn't so stupid.
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Very nice, colorful, funny movie! (with a sexy Murilo Benicio and a sensual Penelope Cruz)
Francesca12 July 2004
I saw "Woman on top" yesterday and I found it very nice. It's a very funny story set first in Bahia (Brazil) and then in San Francisco, when Isabella (Penelope Cruz) became a TV star in a TV program about food. Penelope Cruz is very good in the role but it would be better if the role of Isabella was given to a brazilian actress (like for example Giovanna Antonelli, who would be perfect for the role), because a Spanish actress, even if she is good, who plays a sensual brazilian cook do not sound such well. Murilo Benicio (Toninho), one of the best brazilian young actors, is very good, very funny and so handsome and sexy! The story is very colorful and the music is beautiful, with many brazilian bossa nova hits like "Aquarela do Brasil" and "Vocè". The idea of Isabella having a best friend who is a drag queen is very good and also the idea of the TV program about the passion in brazilian cooking is excellent (and it remembers the role of the sensual cook Dona Flora played by Sonia Braga in "Dona Flor and her two husbands" by Bruno Barreto). If you want to feel the passion, the color, the music of Brazil, you have to watch this movie, even if, I repeat again, a brazilian actress would be better for the main role. I give it a 7.
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A Tasty Dish, but more of just a side dish
gradyharp27 March 2006
WOMAN ON TOP is one of those films that was made, publicized and viewed as pastiche and because of its honesty as a simple romantic comedy, it rates higher than many of the over the top and overproduced competitors. The film is colorful, filled with wonderful Bossa Nova music, and has enough eye candy to almost make you forget the main dishes! Isabella Oliveira (Penélope Cruz) lives in Bahia, Brazil totally in love with Toninho Oliveira (Murilo Benício) where the two have a restaurant featuring Isabella's passionate cooking and Toninho's macho front man role. Isabella has a problem: motion sickness - she cannot fly, ride in a car, or assume the bottom position during sex or she becomes violently ill (it seems that the sea goddess compensated her problem by making her an inimitable chef). All is well until Toninho has a brief affair that drives the crushed Isabella to move to San Francisco alone despite her love for Toninho. There she moves in with her old friend Monica from Bahia (Harold Perrineau as a superbly enacted crossed dressed drag queen) and begins her unsuccessful search for a job. In order to overcome her longing for Toninho and regain her culinary skills she makes a pact with the sea goddess, forsaking ever loving Toninho again. Eventually Isabella lands a TV show on Passionate Cooking when desperate producer Cliff (Mark Feuerstein) gets a whiff of her talent. She is an immediate success. Meanwhile Toninho, unable to endure life in Bahia without Isabella, flies to San Francisco and begins a series of Bossa Nova serenades to win her back. Cliff places Toninho on Isabella's show as background music and the ratings soar. But it is the ultimately the conflict resolution between Isabella and Toninho that brings the story to its expected end.

The story may be light and the script may be pedestrian, but the direction and camera work suffuse this film with Latin American magical realism and that keeps it lighthearted and fun. Cruz is terrific, Perrineau is the true star of the show displaying a sophisticated and sensitive acting skill that is very special, and Murilo Benício is not only a hunk and eye candy but also a fine singer and a warm actor who deserves a lot of attention. Story five, stars six. Have fun with this one! Grady Harp, March 06
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A truly abhorrent and pathetic film.
Ruvi Simmons6 December 1999
One of the hallmarks of independent cinema is that the filmmakers do not under-estimate their audiences, who tend to be better informed, more intelligent, and more demanding than those who view only Hollywood's outpourings. Thus, they are emancipated from the necessity to be blunt. They can create films of integrity, subtlety, and convey emotions and intellectual content that is never present in more mainstream films. However, this is not the case with Woman on Top. Despite being an independent film, distributed by Searchlight, who also handled the excellent Boys Don't Cry, it seems to want nothing more than to be a mainstream film. This is, perhaps, what is most offensive about it.

It is at this point that I ought to inform you that in the proceeding paragraphs, there are comments which may reveal elements of the plot of this film, such as it is.

In the hour or so that I managed to stomach of this unrelentingly vapid film, the plot barely managed to limp forward from its starting point. The characters were not developed beyond their appearances. The primary character, a female chef from Brazil who moves to San Francisco after the breakdown of her marriage, and all her actions, seem based solely on her aesthetic appeal. Indeed, this is also one of the few sources of the tired humour present in the film. These comedic moments are, without exception, crude and desperately unfunny. Listless slapstick moments rub shoulders with endless scenes of men drooling over the young Brazilian woman and staring in disbelief at her transvestite friend, evidently present to add some essential uniqueness to the film and because, as everyone is aware, anyone who lives in San Francisco is either an intellectual or a transvestite.

Cinema, without doubt, has huge potential as a medium for artistic expression, and there are independent films that are intelligent, well-made and engaging. However, Woman on Top, in striving desperately to be a mainstream success, sacrifices any shred of dignity or integrity one could hope to see in a film. Thus, and in sum, it is nothing more than a lazily made, dim-witted film, painfully unfunny and, if taken as an indication of the drift of independent movies (which, incidentally, I don't think, or at least hope, it is) rather worrying, and certainly sickening.
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Woman on Top
susanortiz29 May 2005
I think you have to understand myth's and ideas in other parts of the world to be able to understand the movie. Personally, I loved it. It gives you that trip to Brazil without leaving your house.

The music was great, the story was a bit cheesy but refreshing. Open your eyes to other cultures. Allow yourself to enjoy the simple things such as cooking. I think it was sensual, funny and refreshing.

I think Penelope Cruz did a great job. Having seen most of her movies, I can say that her best movies are the ones that are not overly popular. Woman on top gives women the opportunity to be successful and show men that we can do it.
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Unoriginal, wholly forgettable fairy-tale
nina_rimon12 August 2003
This is a modern day romantic fairy-tale, minus the charm. The storyline is silly, the treatment of the subject -- if there is one - is disappointingly silly, even for what's supposed to be a lighthearted romantic comedy.

I don't know who the target audience of this film is; surely today's moviegoing young women know that a woman deserves better than to be stashed away in the kitchen; and surely they know that "educating" a boyfriend or husband is a difficult task (if at all achievable), requiring more than running away to fashionable S.F. and applying some hocus-pocus. Perhaps the film is aimed at men, who get an extended chance to drool at Penelope Cruz, who indeed looks lovely and "fetching". As for myself, I'd rather watch this lovely actress in better films, such as All About My Mother.
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Penelope Cruz never looked or acted better!
Sherazade3 February 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I loved this film! It's very picturesque, and imaginative and tells the story of love very well. The script is solid and has Penelope Cruz (pre-Hollywood rubbish and Tom Cruise days) starring as Isabelle, a beautiful young cook who moves to San Francisco when her husband cheats on her. She becomes a very popular and highly rated TV show host which helps her husband to track her down and try to win her back. This is a very romantic film! It just tugs at your heart, makes you laugh, makes you cry and makes you want this sort of romanticism in your life! Oh and by the way, What is San Francisco without a drag queen? and this film serves up one as one of the main characters in the most deliriously hilarious way! A+ A must see!
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Uninvolving, unbelievable twaddle featuring a very beautiful woman.
bamboo-217 October 2000
Low rent pseudo passion and magic, without a trace of real emotion. Visuals are below par, except for the gorgeous Ms. Cruz. Too bad she lent herself to such self-conscious arty shallowness. Otherwise I really liked it.
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What's the lesson?
Eyes Wide Open8 December 2001
So what this film teaches us is that... if you cheat on the woman you love, break her heart, she will take you back if you act like a stalker. Also, all nice guys are gay.

It's a shame. All the elements were there for a nice story. But instead of the leading lady trusting herself on her own, she digresses back to her old flame because he sang to her.

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A charming fantasy
jrmastic11121 October 2002
Though this movie was no earth shaking tour de force of filmmaking, it indeed was charming. It was lite hearted and moved quickly. It was refreshing to escape into a fantasy world that not so bogged down with typical formula crisis. It had a few touching moments and was funny without being silly, I liked it and would recommend it as a lite comedy.
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no good men for the lovely Cruz
SnoopyStyle29 December 2016
In Brazil, Isabella (Penélope Cruz) suffered from motion sickness all her life. The sea goddess Yemanja compensated her with a passion for cooking. She falls for Toninho Oliveira and they get married. She dutifully worked in his restaurant despite the many admirers trying to lure her away. She finds staying in control by being on top would keep the motion sickness away. She catches Toninho with another woman and run off to San Francisco. She stays with her friend Monica Jones (Harold Perrineau) and TV producer Cliff Lloyd (Mark Feuerstein) falls head over heels for her. Her cooking literally knocks him off his feet. Her cooking show starts taking off and then Toninho shows up.

Cruz is incredibly lovely. She is luminescent. Neither guy measures up. Toninho is a womanizing Latino stereotype. Feuerstein is not a good leading man. Cliff has a bit of weasel and he's not worthy of her. The ending is horrible. Cruz simply glows and her character deserves better.
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Cruz is stunning, the movie is not
craig-hopton17 July 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Gazing with admiration at Penélope Cruz is pretty much the sole attraction of this movie. In fact, that's what the men *in* the movie spend most of their time doing, too. Cruz plays Isabella, a TV chef that cooks with 'passion' - and do so (literally) beautifully.

Everything else about this movie is poor.

It's a romantic comedy so I expected a love-lost-and-found plot line. But the premise of Isabella's break up with her husband Toninho is mind-bogglingly awful. Isabella suffers from motion sickness and so she likes to be on top when making love. Toninho, with the excuse that men 'need to be on top sometimes', sneaks away at night to have an affair, which Isabella discovers.

But Isabella's love for Toninho is so strong (even after the affair), that she has to call down a curse from the Brazilian god Yemanja, to end her love. It's a terrible story line. Toninho is impossible to relate to as a result, even when he tracks down Isabella and sings her love songs to try and win her back. What makes it worse is that the chemistry between them is pretty unconvincing. The supposed animal passion is unevident.

There are moments of gentle humour in the movie that delight momentarily. Isabella trying to make out to another man while Toninho sings Portugese songs through her answering machine was one that stuck with me. But overall, this is not a good movie.
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Isabella is Brazil, and Brazil is Isabella.
lastliberal4 October 2009
Who could ever get tired of Penélope Cruz? No matter what she does, she is fantastic. Seeing her in this early film before she went all Hollywood, is pure pleasure.

She has the energy, the charm, the passion that is Penélope Cruz, and she makes eating seem like the most fantastic thing on Earth.

She splits from her husband (Murilo Benício) and heads to San Francisco to take up residence with her best friend Monica (Harold Perrineau). She gets a TV gig after being seen by a producer (Mark Feuerstein).

Now, her husband has found her and works to get her back. Of course, the producer is also after her, and Monica is working both men to improve them and make them worthy.

With a stirring soundtrack featuring the music of Toquinho, Paulinho Mosca, Xavier Cugat and His Orchestra, and more.
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This movie needs a new recipe.
marxi8 September 2003
Warning: Spoilers
Attractive actors and colorful sets don't make a movie. This movie needs a new recipe.

*************Mild Spoilers*********************************************

News Flash. Penelope Cruz just isn't a very good actress. I haven't seen her give a good performance yet in the 3 or 4 films of hers I've watched. Hopefully she can do better than this. She simply doesn't have the charisma to carry a film. Enough said.

Supposedly this is a fairy tale about a woman who strikes out on her own when she catches her husband cheating on her. Actually this is more like a poorly written soap opera than a fairy tale. The movie never finds the right balance between fantasy and reality. There are so many idiotic plot contrivances in this film that you'll find yourself laughing with incredulity.

You can see it in the eyes of the performers: what am I doing in this stupid movie? And you'll be asking yourself: what am I doing watching this insipid film. 70/100. Not a memorable film.
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Cute, funny, entertaining, Penelope Cruz film about love and cooking.
TxMike28 March 2001
Penelope Cruz as "Isabella" is the only actor of note in this very entertaining film I rate "7" of 10. From birth in Brazil she has suffered from motion sickness. The only way she can avoid it during "movement" activities is to be in control. So she drives the bike while the boy sits on the back. She takes the stairs instead of the elevator. The name of the film comes from where she has to be during sex to avoid getting sick. When she goes to S.F. she pays the cab driver extra to let her drive.

Isabella also developed a keen cooking ability, more like "fabulous" and just the scent of her food drives men crazy. She and her husband have a very successful restaurant where she cooks and he "entertains". She leaves Brazil and moves in with a friend in S.F. after she finds her husband cheating on her, after all he "has to be on top" occasionally. She has a voodoo lady cast a spell so she won't love her husband anymore. She gets discovered and has an immediate hit TV cooking show. The young producer tries hard for her hand but he really is too much of a nerd.

Her husband doesn't give up. He recognizes his "mistake" and follows her to S.F. and keeps trying until he makes amends, but she still has to reverse the spell to be able to love her husband again.

The film is very well done and both funny and genuinely entertaining. I cannot understand how so any viewers rated it anything under 5 or 6, which many did. My rating of "7" is a very solid one, similar in overall enjoyment to films like "Return to Me" or "Forces of Nature" or "Hope Floats". I saw it on DVD and the surround sound was used very effectively. The Latin flavor music throughout was also very nice.
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Why oh why do they do this?
tedg25 September 2000
They give us a story about how evil it is to sell out to Hollywood -- to take the life out something wonderful -- and then do it! I just last night saw a much better film ("Almost Famous") which made the same point and then transgressed in the same way. Do they think we won't notice?

About ten years ago, Demi Moore -- then being pushed as sexy -- tried a similar film: "The Butcher's Wife." Also rancid.

I can just hear the pitch: Latin magical realism meets food and sex; we'll go lush and have a date-movie ending as the girl faces her real values. Lots of gay humor...can't miss. We don't need to waste money on A-list writers and directors since we've got Penelope.

I hear a third of this movie was cut so that they could squeak it past the test audiences. Too bad. As Jennifer Lopez shows, a pretty nonactor Latin can be pretty much fun in film ("Out of Sight"). Bossa Nova (actually this music is more the samba from the south of Brazil) has real appeal (Try "Tango" for a Latin music success). There's lots of possibilities in food (try "Eat, Drink, Man Woman") in sex and and in magic. How could they miss? Poor writing, directing and acting.
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Spicy Cruz - Hot tomata!
george.schmidt28 April 2004
WOMAN ON TOP (2000) **1/2 Penelope Cruz, Murilo Benicio, Harold Perrineau, Jr., Mark Feurerstein, Ana Gasteyer. (Dir: Fina Torres)

Penelope Cruz is on the cusp of major movie stardom with several films in the can coming out this year and in her latest she is this close to being a household name.

Cruz, the gorgeous Spanish actress best known as a repertoire player in Pedro Almodovar's outrageously romantic films, in her first starring American role, plays Isabella Oliveira, the Brazilian, sexy, beleagured wife of hunky restaurateur Toniho (Benicio), and works in their caliente cocina (or hot kitchen) as a chef to be reckoned with, preparing with earnestness and blood, sweat and tears while he shamelessly flirts with the female clientele.

Isabella also sustains a unique, seemingly Hollywoodized psychosomatic condition that causes motion sickness to the nth degree whenever she is not in control - driving a car or as the title refers to, being on top sexually - which leads to her frustrated husband into the arms of another woman she catches him sleeping with. When he explains to her that as a man he HAS to be on top sometimes only fuels her sadness to leave him and jets off to the United States, specifically San Fransisco, where she first becomes a culinary instructor and reunites with her transvestite recently paroled best friend Monica Jones (Perrineau, best known as the paralyzed Greek chorus in HBO's `Oz' prison series), who offers her his/her undivided attention.

Her sensuous cooking soon takes over the community and in one of the film's infinitely fablistic ways has Isabella walking along the street with a phalanx of enamored army of men a la the Pied Piper of Hamelin. One of the bewitched, beguiled and bewildered is eager beaver tv producer Cliff Lloyd (Feurestein, late of tv sitcom `Conrad Bloom' and semi-regular on `Once and Again') and on the spot offers the fair Isabella a gig as a tv cooking personality.

Immediately he is smitten and also finagles his ratings crazed station manager to accept the saucy chef. Overnight Isabella becomes a sensation sending the city in a tailspin of hooked viewers including a local bar of tough looking mugs including her Toniho, who has treked to San Fran searching desperately for his beloved regretting big time for cheating on her.

Unbeknownst to Toniho, Isabella has sought council in a black magic offering to a sea god to fall out of love with him. Clearly he has his work out for him and the remainder of the film has him reuniting with a reluctant Isabella (who winds up working with him after he pulls an on-air stunt of serenading her with his traveling minstrels; only in the movies!)
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The spiciest cook in San Francisco wins stomachs and hearts alike
jhvogelsang15 June 2005
There is something inherently humorous about watching an extremely photogenic star like Penelope Cruz get caught up in funny little theatrical moments - like driving a taxi down Lombard Street, flipping her larger co-star on his back and hanging out with a tall, athletically built transvestite.

While the scenes of her cooking class will melt hearts and endear her to American audiences, the comedic moments she embodies so well are the real class of this picture. I'm just wondering if some TV station hasn't tried this formula somewhere? I really enjoyed this picture right up to the point where the requisite dark blue TV suits get in the way of more fun and originality. The rest of the movie kind of tiptoed away a little too carefully.

Anyway, hats off to Ms. Cruz in an endearing and auspicious first 'American' film role and to Harold Perriman Jr. who has extended the size range and taste of women's wear. I would like to have seen more of their shenanigans and 'girltalk'.

I would definitely recommend this film for a multi-couple date night. Think of the delightfully varied and opinionated conversation over expensive cappuccinos afterward.
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Worst I have ever seen!
Alfva26 February 2005
This movie is by far one of the worst movies I have ever seen. It is a joke and I can not believe an actress like Penelope Cruz who has been in a movie like Blow could ever say yes to such a movie. I should add that I do not know which one was made first. The whole movie is about how beautiful Cruz is. The only reason I am still writing is because there is a minimum amount of lines because there really is not anything else you could say about this movie. I can not believe that the average rating is as high as 5.3. So for everyone who had planned to watch this movie but has changed their mind by now I might as well say that in the end she goes back to the man who cheated on her. What kind of ending is that!!
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Penélope Cruz is a fish
caspian19785 January 2005
This, overall, is a cute movie. While Cruz is far and away the star of this movie, the stories strong point is that it is a "chick flick" with an attitude. The best performance comes from actor Harold Perrineau Jr. who plays a gay side kick to Cruz. Much like the movie, Cruz is unique and at many times sexy. Although this is a romantic comedy, there is drama to be found. Cruz is something between a fish and the hot chili like peppers that are used in her character's cooking. She is simple like a fish, yet she is exotic and original like the peppers she uses to make her simple dishes breath taking. This is not a sexually driven movie, although the dishes she makes in the kitchen are nothing but sex, sex, and more sex. Overall, a nice story that puts a smile on your face.
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tethgirl28 December 2003
One of the worst movies I've even seen. Its boring, meaningless, purposeless and has not any plot. Don't waste your time guys. The actors were not good at all, and all the story was repeating itself.

It was not even a good romance story.
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film? OK Penelope? WOW!
WorthlessKnowledge27 April 2015
Yes, it's sappy and kind of silly, but it has a neat story and great music. Overall, I would rate this film as good 7, but in the romantic or date night movie category it's really a 10.

The characters are sizzling cool and quirky enough to be humanly interesting. It is a timeless story of hope... most of all a love story about a woman loosing her love of her soul-mate, yet by following a somewhat funny path (away from him) she finds that the love returns and she owns it again.

And I challenge ANYONE (man or woman) to watch this cute little movie and not fall just completely in love with Penelope Cruz. Beautiful and sweet doesn't do it - she is, instead, absolutely mesmerizing.
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