Old 12-19-2008, 09:16 PM
Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008)

There are those people that know exactly what they want in a boy/girlfriend and then there are those who haven't the slightest idea of what they are looking for. This can lead to some very interesting situations as the first type could be way too picky and way too quick to blow off what could be a good relationship, while the other could be open to many new and different opportunities. Woody Allen's latest film gives us a look at two such people.

Vicky (Rebecca Hall) and Cristina (Scarlett Johansson) are best friends who have come to visit Barcelona for the summer. Vicky is there to complete her masters while Cristina merely needed a change of scenery after a recent breakup with her latest boyfriend. One night at dinner, Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem) introduces himself and very bluntly offers to fly them to a small Spanish city to see a sculpture, drink wine, and make love. A bit repulsed at first, they both decide to go with him. The situation is complicated by the fact that Vicky is engaged to be married, but when Cristina gets food poisoning and must rest, Vicky and Juan spend a lot more time together. This leads to the relationships switching around a few times, but things get even worse when Juan's ex-wife, Maria Elena (PenÚlope Cruz), enters the picture.

There were several great performances to take note of in this film. Scarlett Johansson continues to show that she can handle a lead role. Ever since I noticed her in the brilliant "Lost in Translation," it has been fascinating to follow her different roles. She really impressed me in this because, in a way, she has the most complex role, but since saying more would be a bit spoilerish, I'll leave it at that. Another name I seem to keep coming across recently is Rebecca Hall. Here, she gets a lot more screentime then she did in the two previous films I saw her in, "The Prestige" and "Frost/Nixon." She shows that she can handle a much larger role than what she is normally cast in.

I was incredibly glad to see that last year's Best Supporting Actor Oscar winner, Javier Bardem, got rid of that horrific hairstyle from "No Country For Old Men." While I didn't really care for that film, I did appreciate his genuinely creepy performance in it. Here, Bardem brings exactly what was need for the character. He plays Juan as a suave, Casanova-esque character, but keeps the character grounded in the fact that he isn't trying to simply sweep women off there feet, but really trying to find a connection with someone. He is a gentleman who is trying to find that connection with these women, but keeps getting haunted by his previous marriage.

Another surprise was PenÚlope Cruz's performance. I remember how amazing her performance was in "Volver" which made it a pleasant surprise to see her in this. In her role as Juan's ex-wife, she has the complicated task of understanding her ex-husband's choice for a new woman. The way Cruz plays her character fits in perfectly with how her relationship turns out with Juan and his girlfriend. It should also be noted that all of these actors had great chemistry together on screen and brought very natural performances to their characters.

Written and directed by Woody Allen, this film feels like the older relationship drama's that he used to make, though this is certainly much lighter than those. Allen seems to have gone through three distinct phases with his career. He started with his fascinating line of comedies like "Love and Death," Sleeper," and his Academy Award winning "Annie Hall." He then moved on to his exploration of relationships, getting much more serious in the process with films like "Hannah and Her Sisters" and "Husbands and Wives." Most recently, he seemed to be exploring the darker side of relationships, whether they be man/woman or filial, with films like "Match Point" and "Cassandra's Dream."

I was very surprised by how good match point was and I was probably one of the only people who liked "Scoop," but then I was really let down with "Cassandra's Dream." I thought that the plot just wasn't very strong and the ending was too random, so I was hoping that Allen would be able to bounce back with his next project.

With "Vicky Cristina Barcelona," I was pleasantly surprised. The plot was overall satisfying, not great, but satisfying. It comes off as more of a fairy tale or a dream, because that must be exactly how it felt for Vicky and Cristina. They are not even in Barcelona for 24 hours before Juan whisks them away in his jet. Things hardly end up as they would in a fairy tale though. Allen throws in all these complications to make the story more interesting than it would be as a straight romance, while showing us that he still has a knack for fascinating dialogue.

What stopped this from being a great movie though was that it felt like the movie just didn't go anywhere special and the ending just seemed too quick. After all these complications that Allen threw in, it felt like there should have been more to the ending, but instead everything just returns to the status quo. This isn't entirely unexpected though becuase fairy tales and dreams do have to come to an end sometime. We just have to hope that Vicky and Cristina learned something from their experience. 3/4 stars.

Last edited by Hal2001; 12-20-2008 at 01:40 PM..
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Old 01-02-2009, 12:46 PM

Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Rebecca Hall and Penelope Cruz. This was pure boredom BUT not a bad film. Some funny parts in it but its mostly a romance story. Both of these women trying to find themselves while on vacation. One problem I had, they were there for July and August but everything they did, it seemed like they were in Spain for like five months or so. The movie was so detailed with their weekly schedules, two months seems unrealistic. An okay rental. I give this movie a 4. Ken
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