Vicky Cristina Barcelona
There’s something slightly frustrating (and yet comforting at the same time) about a filmmaker who refuses to change. But when Woody Allen’s old time font shows up on the screen at the beginning of the film, I know that I’ll be taken care of for the next two hours. Vicky Christina Barcelona is no different. And it’s one of Allen’s best.
A European friend of mine once told me that if I watched an Almodovar film, even if I hadn’t been to Spain, I’d feel like I had. I don’t know if that’s necessarily true, but I do know that I feel like I’ve been there now after watching Vicky. Or at least, I saw the the Spain that every American wishes existed. The film follows BFFs Vicky (Rebecca Hall) and Cristina (Scarlett Johansson) as they spend their summer in Barcelona. Both are frustrated artists at heart (but mostly they’re just pretentious as hell). After a chance encounter with a Spanish artist, Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem), the three go away for a weekend of lovemaking. Although Juan is quite clear about his intentions, both girls pretend they’re going to experience a different part of Spain (and I’m not taking about Juan’s part). Things are quickly complicated by the fact Vicky is engaged to be married, and Cristina had food poisoning. Then enters Juan’s ex-wife, the tortured soul: Maria Elena (Penelope Cruz). Sound like French New Wave? While it’s not the definition of the style, the love triangles, and the matter-of-fact narration (which I fell in love with) is New Wave as Allen has ever been.
This goes without saying, but the cast is so talented, it makes you feel like the film is sort of selfish, hoarding all this talent. It’s a pleasure to see Bardem perform in such a different environment then that of No Country For Old Men, although I did keep waiting for him to kill someone. Patricia Clarkson and Johansson are reliable, as always and were a pleasure to watch, but I think the real stars of the show are Rebecca Hall and Penelope Cruz, both of whom act the hell out of the parts (in a good way).
Allen denied himself some of the ridiculous self-indulgences he’s allowed himself in the past, like his off-pitch improv antics in 2006′s Scoop (also starring Johansson), or 2007′s Cassandra’s Dream which was weighed down by pointless, boring dialogue. Vicky is a tight, quickpaced, sensual (without being erotic) good time that will leave you endlessly entertained.
Rated PG-13 for mature thematic material involving sexuality, and smoking.