Barcelona (1994) Poster

(1994)

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9/10
Great characters, great scenery, great lines
Bill Slocum21 November 2002
There are people in this world who think "Barcelona" is just a film about soft-living, navel-gazing preppies with perfect hair and term-paper vocabularies. These are the same people who like Vinyl Hampton music.

What's not to love about this sensitive, off-kilter love story about a young, too-earnest salesman Ted and his sly, disruptive Ugly American cousin-with-issues Fred? Nothing. The film grabs you from their first bickering exchange in Ted's apartment building, and never lets go, not because of fast-paced editing or shiny visuals (though the film doesn't drag and Barcelona at night is a wonder) but because of the clever dialogue. Whit Stillman makes films for people who love to read, yet they are not stilted exercises in "Masterpiece Theater"-style draftsmanship but laugh-out-loud exchanges of opinion between engaging people who just happen to see the world in sometimes very/ sometimes slightly different ways. It's like "Friends" if that cast suddenly grew brains. Give this movie five minutes, and it will suck you in like a vacuum.

Ultimately, what grabs me is how the film is so chock full of life, of people who haven't got much of a clue about life winging it and hazarding the consequences. I remember those days. Ted pledges to date "only plain or even homely women" because he thinks beauty obscures the true essence of love. Fred tells people his cousin is into the Marquis de Sade and leather underwear because he thinks it makes Ted more interesting to the ladies than the Bible-reading goody-goody Ted really is.

Actually, Fred may be on to something. It seems to help Ted in meeting his dream woman Montserrat. Ted and Montserrat are an odd couple. He wrestles earnestly with his religion and believes in salesmanship as a means of understanding life, while she is a free-living, free-loving Spaniard who thinks leaving her native land for America will condemn her future children to a life of hamburger-eating zombiedom.

I was in Barcelona in 1981 myself and saw first-hand how beautiful and magical the place truly is. I also saw the anti-Americanism and anti-"OTAN"ism prevalent there. Stillman isn't overselling the negative attitudes many in Spain and throughout Europe had of the United States during those critical days of the Cold War. It's a good thing they got that out of their system, huh? The movie could have been heavy-handed in this way, but never allows itself to be, not with all those funny ant analogies. Ramon, the left-wing writer who fingers Fred for being a member of the CIA (or the AFL-CIA, as Ramon is convinced the labor union and the intelligence agency are somehow connected), is not stupid or mean, but just like Ted and Fred, a little too caught up in his own ideas of how things are, or as Ted puts it in a moment of truth at the hospital, another person given to filtering reality through his own colossal egotism.

Whit Stillman seems to be averaging two films a decade now, and it's a shame. He and Chris Eigeman need to make more movies together. I never get tired of Eigeman's snarky charm, or Stillman's ability to create films equally rich in one-liners and in context. "Barcelona" was the finest of Stillman's three efforts, with the best story and backdrop, but the earlier "Metropolitan" was not far behind. "Last Days of Disco," the most recent Stillman film, wasn't as good as the first two, but is engaging and absorbing enough on its own terms. If you haven't seen any of them, start with this one.

[The DVD contains several interesting deleted scenes and an alternative ending which might have made the film a bit darker but wouldn't have disrupted anything essential. Still, it's hard to argue with an ending that has Montserrat bite into an authentic American hamburger and pronounce it "incredible." At least unless you're a vegetarian, in which case Fred would probably say that's your problem.]
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10/10
Vastly underrated film
flapster00113 September 2005
Barecelona is a vastly underrated movie that achieved little success outside of art-house theatres on its release. This is a shame because the movie is both intelligent, funny and has broad appeal.

It concerns the adventures of two Americans who find themselves in Barcelona in the early Eighties at the height of the cold war. Ted is an uptight and repressed businessman while Fred is his airforce cousin who's a great deal more relaxed. The film starts with Fred forcing himself on his reluctant cousin's hospitality having just arrived in Barcelona.

Yet this isn't a buddy movie. In fact, it's very hard to classify and is by no means typical of an American movie. It's far more European in style.

The movie is about clashes of cultures and it's here that the humour is generated. Fred and Ted's differing attitudes and intelligence levels rub up against each other, and the old debate about the differences between male and female outlooks get a look in too. But the largest culture clash is that of urban left-wing Northern Spain versus the naturally conservative and bullish Americanism. This sounds heavy and intellectual but it isn't - the film makes fun of the American culture of living according self-help guides, for example, but also makes fun of a Spanish journalist-cum-philosopher who turns out to be equally shallow.

The strongest elements of the movie are the script, which is as tight as any top-notch sitcom, and also the cast. There are some excellent performances all around from some very strong actors. Fans or Mira Sorvino won't get to see a great deal of her, however, as she has a relatively minor supporting role.

The film is effectively a celebration of Barcelona and also of the situations that arise when different cultures meet. This might make it hard for some Americans to warm to but, ironically, that merely underlines the movie's main theme - that the world is bigger than the American continent and infinitely wider in its cultural scope.
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8/10
Americans in Love in Spain
gbheron18 March 2003
"Barcelona" is a conversational movie, driven by witty, inventive dialogue. The two main protagonists are cousins; white collar, American, male twenty-somethings. One is the Barcelona sales representative of an American company, the other a recently arrived Naval attaché. Set in the early 1980s, together they navigate the Spanish singles scene while trying to excel in their chosen professions. This doesn't sound like much, but it's really a hoot. The movie's core is the pair's verbal jousting, both with one another, and with the Spanish women they try to woo. It has a couple of sub-plots to keep things interesting, and just bubbles along. I recommend this highly, especially as a movie to see with a date.
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7/10
The Bible Dancer and the American Deer
jeanmaru23 December 2004
This is one of those movies that get better with age. I first saw it ten years ago, when Mira Sorvino was an unknown actress, and I was surprised to learn later that she wasn't really Spanish. (I lived in Spain for five years, so I'm not easily fooled.) If you've been to Barcelona, you'll like the glowing glimpses of the city, sun-drenched during the day, lit by neon and fireworks at night. There is much charming, often subtle, humor in the film. Who could resist Taylor Nichols dancing alone in his dining room while reading the Bible? Or Chris Eigeman using a felt tip pen to change anti-American graffiti from "American pigs" to "American deer"? Sure, the film is talky, but it doesn't take itself too too seriously.
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Charming
trpdean8 March 2002
This very unusual movie exudes such charm and creates a great well of sympathy for its anxious and innocent central characters.

They find themselves throughout in worlds they find alien - a world of puerile anti-Americanism, of foreign women, and either commercial sales or the Navy ("well, you were ROTC, weren't you?" said disparagingly to a former bond trader now Navy officer).

The movie is very funny, the main American characters very likeable, naive, impressionable and voluble, the Spanish male character and several of the Spanish female characters, enjoyably detestable in every way.

There were two things I particularly enjoyed. First, every American who has lived in Europe for any period of time will find the movie rings all kinds of bells of memory - the woeful ignorance but insufferable patronizing tone of Europeans discoursing on American history and politics (e.g., the whole discourse on the "terrible union AFL-CIA that subverted democratic movements in Europe" is a hoot). Many young Europeans have exhibited since the War such an astonishing combination of ignorance, facile categorization and jealousy toward American life, history and policy that the American finds himself suddenly overwhelmed by both uninformed European prejudice and an astonishing unwillingness to be educated about a country that Americans obviously know far better than the lecturers. This movie is almost a tribute to that suffering.

Second, this movie is a nice antidote to the usual pedestal-placing of women, particularly foreign women, as the pawns of men. In this, the women are FAR more predatory and exhibit a deceit that is commonplace in most movies about male wolfishness. It's nice to see the tables turned.

The movie is also quite good on the relationship between two young Chicago men - and the way in which their lives as children affect their continuing view of each other - and how that changes.

The movie is off-beat, and has a peculiar pace. Do pay attention because there are about 5 female characters who are easy to confuse. Do see it- you'll enjoy it. (Oh, and in contradiction to the reviewer below, I think it quite normal, though funny, for a man to happen to speak - even though still in bed - to a girlfriend about his worry that he may be shaving the wrong way).
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10/10
One of my all-time favorites
Jeff-37018 July 2000
Back when I wasn't really into buying films on video, I bought this one. The humor is subtle, understated, ironic, and tremendously well-written. It is just ending as I write this. Every time I see it I notice a few more things that make me laugh. None of it is the shocking, laugh-out-loud style of humor, but there are several intellectual chuckles.

For some people, it will seem too intellectual and therefore it will strike them as pretentious. That is not a criticism at all, only a warning. I don't find it pretentious at all.

The best part is the interesting characters. They are written as complete, well-developed people who have wildly different outlooks on Spain-U.S. relations. While Whit Stillman does a great job of analyzing these relations, the central focus of the movie is how these characters relate to each other in the arena of these larger ethnic relations.

I firmly believe that anyone who enjoys dialogue-driven, non-action-oriented films will love this one. I gave it a "10."
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A life-affirming diversion for "thinkers"
kstephens27 May 2002
I have not looked at this movie in over a year, yet it is still so fond to my recollection...that I have to stop here and share my thoughts.

First, this is a genuinely warm film and some of the sunniness of the setting, I think, permeates the mood it creates and the feeling that is left with the viewer. And this is despite the sterility of Ted Boynton's work and the comparable hollowness of his sales "ethos." I know what people say about Whit Stillman's films (ie. that they are peopled with talking heads and not much feeling is generated)....but this is absolutely NOT the case with BARCELONA. In spite of Ted Boynton's pragmatic and brainy approach to life, he is still shown the value of love and life...and learns some of the humility he has been so sorely lacking. It has to do, also, with his consciousness of being a foreigner: he has lowered his expectations to the point where the slightest display of kindness (by Montserrat and her friends) is a revelation to him. I think anyone wanting to work abroad should see this film first!

There is much to admire in here: the crispness of Stillman's dialogue, the excellent performance by Taylor Nichols and his comic, verbally-sparring, exchanges with Chris Eigeman. It teaches us to never lose our wonder and become complacent when becoming established in a foreign country. It offers a lesson to intellectuals and would-be intellectuals everywhere that there is still plenty to be learned where the human heart is concerned. I liked this movie a lot and rate it as Stillman's clearest and most entertaining work to date.
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10/10
a wonderful movie
hbs9 August 2000
This movie is hilarious. I have seen it at least a dozen times and I still crack up repeatedly. Stillman managed to give a glimpse of his genius in "Metropolitan", and he failed badly in the subsequent "Last Days of Disco" (that was a lazy effort with a few hilarious joking references to the two previous movies, but it's a huge disappointment), but this time he hits the right tone. The story is about two cousins in Barcelona one summer, and the text of the movie is entertaining enough, but what is wonderful is the way he steps back and shows the absurdity of these characters while still allowing you to have some affection for them. The final scene in the movie where the two cousins and a friend stare out over the lake in fatuous contentment is sheer perfection.
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Talk to Him
tedg20 January 2005
Warning: Spoilers
A great joy in a life with film is to discover a film that is competent and coherent, that exists cinematic ally but which on reflection has dynamics worth rejecting. After all, you build your life not so much on absorption but on paring. A great sorrow in film is to encounter a film that isn't quite competent and therefore doesn't project a coherent world. This is the latter.

Its mildly interesting in that we can see the writer's sketchbook: he started with three pairs: men and women; two differing and sometimes competing cultures and two "odd couple" cousins. Each of these pairs has some inner dynamics: now triangulate among them all and shake out a story.

Spanish passion, falling in love with a dancing woman, a death, another in a coma who recovers. Sounds a lot like "Talk to Her," and in fact you might even find this film interesting if you see it together with Almodovar's gem. But otherwise, all you'll see is a writer's exercise gone awry. There's even a paucity of jokes: only the one about the AFL-CIA.

I viewed this only because of the promise of the setting in Barcelona. Like the three dualities of the story, the city is bicameral. It is half African and half European; nominally Spanish, it has its own culture and language half French half Spanish. But its architecture is the thing. There are some Gaudi masterpieces which have influenced a unique approach which is half socialist architecture (yes, there is such a thing) and half wan decorative attempts at Gaudi's space jazz. This all adds to create a special ambiance; one is rarely happy about leaving Barcelona, and I hoped to get some of that environmental joy here.

Nope. This could as easily been set in some dreary place like Madrid.

Ted's Evaluation -- 1 of 3: You can find something better to do with this part of your life.
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4/10
Excruciatingly bad excuse for a comedy? romance? movie?
Euphorbia20 September 2002
Okay, the good stuff first.

1) Pretty location, although we don't get to see very much of it. In an early scene, the two characters (the rest are just extras) go on a car tour of Barcelona, but except for the first stop, all we ever get to see is their blank faces inside the car. Talk is cheap; film is expensive.

2) Beautiful young women, several of them, but they are never given any significant dialogue, nor are they actually called upon to act. They walk on. They walk off. Occasionally one or another of them hops into the sack with one or the other cousin, pretty much interchangeably, and with no discernible passion or emotion. Not their fault, of course. It's the director, stupid, who evidently thinks of women the same way as did a lascivious architect I worked for in the 1960s -- as part of the decor.

And that was the good stuff.

This piece of work would have failed as the pilot for a sitcom. The whole thing is a running bicker between two snappish, immature, American preppie cousins. To borrow a line from Dorothy Parker, their performances "ran the whole gamut of emotions from A to B." I knew (and loathed) guys like this in college, full of their vanity, their boarding school repartee, their shallow ignorance of the world, and their cool disdain for the people -- especially the women -- who tried to care about them. I suppose one should not blame the actors, since presumably they were delivering the performances the director asked for, while said director clearly was not busy offering guidance to any of the other performers. Yes, sadly, these two characters are somewhat realistic, but puerile poseurs are no fun to watch, either on or off the screen. 4/10
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5/10
Kind of like watching grass grow.
George Parker14 June 2002
Save pure voyeurism, it's difficult to see the entertainment value in a film which simply portrays the pedestrian, sublunary vicissitudes of ordinary people who are probably less interesting than ourselves. "Barcelona", a journeyman light comedy/drama indie, features postcard shots of the title city, a bevy of babes, and two pretty ordinary guys who just banter incessantly about the most uninteresting stuff. Flawed and with plotholes aplenty, "Barcelona" is a film in need of a story and fails to distinguish itself in any significant way. Passable, forgettable stuff though the auteur may be a work in progress with potential.
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1/10
A shallow and pretentious movie
nbott9 July 2001
This film is shallow because we never really get to know any of the characters very well. Out of the blue, they say whatever dumb thing is on their mind and we are supposed to think it is so clever. The dialogue is very "preppy", not real speech that normal human beings engage in. A man does not discuss his shaving habits with the girl he has just had sex with. Toward the end of the film, we are supposed to think it is so clever that we can enjoy the shaving joke again because an American government official comments on it.

As for the women in the film, we really get no insight at all. They are just tools for these shallow nerdy men to bounce off of. For men so fascinated by women, you would think that there would be more depth in the relationships that we are watching. This is not to be. What is so fascinating about these shallow men that would attract all these women?

There is no real interaction with the American characters and the fabulous city they are in. They might as well be meeting in Siberia rather than Spain. All through this film, one never gets the feeling that I care about these people. In fact, I was delighted when the so-called anti-American shoots the one guy. At least, there was a little drama at last.

Do yourself a favor and avoid this film at all cost.
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2/10
Not Whit Stillman's best
The_Deputy9 April 2004
Whit Stillman is in solid territory when making movies about upper middle class and wealthy American WASPs. But I think he does an injustice in this movie to Barcelona, one of the most wonderful cities in the world. Naming the movie "Barcelona" is almost like it's the definitive movie on Barcelona. But the movie is about two bozos from the US who come to Barcelona and find much of it alien and hostile. This would be fine from their subjective standpoint, as it might seem that way for fish out of water, but the movie makes it seem as if people in Barcelona are objectively the way they're portrayed, which is quite silly. The "Spanish" people in the movie aren't even Spanish, the blonde girl is English, and Mira Sorvino is American of Italian descent.

If you want to see a Whit Stillman movie that's better, and where he's on more familiar territory, I suggest you see something like "The Last Days of Disco".
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A nerve-wracking picture about being American
thenoholdsbard5 April 2003
Two nervous young American cousins stationed in Barcelona adapt to a world in which the privilege of being American offers little peace of mind, and where a dearth of evidence, sympathy and understanding prevents any moral or cultural justification of their own way of life.

The young men (one based on Stillman himself), find themselves living the lives of grown men -- doing the work of men, traveling, attracting and bedding grown, worldly women, but they are far from understanding the responsibility of mind and heart that goes along with it. Whit Stillman again chooses bland, thin young actors, MODELS on which to "hang" this movie, as though it were an expensive gown-- the same could be said of THE LAST DAYS OF DISCO, and METROPOLITAN, his first film.

Keeping the camera always at a moderate, comfortable distance from the cast, he effectively prohibits the viewer from making any real connection with the characters -- leading many to write his movies off as "shallow." This technique robs the movie of some important emotion, but Stillman seems more interested in teaching than entertaining. He has another, alternate, and very possibly superior definition of "meat" in storytelling. Stillman resists the use of a bevy of seduction tools like over-editing, music, and "romance" -- a decision that leads, in the end, to a seductive style similar Italo Calvino's brash artlessness in storytelling.

Though the movie is full of "thoughts," the characters nevertheless find themselves REACTING their way, thoughtlessly, toward adulthood. It's torturous to watch these characters grope, solipsize and mis-calculate, but (we must decide eventually), one does not have to enjoy a film in order that it be excellent and instructive -- BARCELONA is.

Watching the film, one feels the frustration of everyone involved, from the writer/director to the key grip -- to me, commiserating with this immense, well-worded frustration/triumph seems a valuable way to spend 104 minutes, counting previews.
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1/10
One of the worst movies I have ever seen
chris-240219 June 2005
I currently live and work in Barcelona and thought this would be a really interesting movie. Boy, was I wrong! Terrible acting, poor plot, and long. Fortunately, someone gave me the DVD to watch so I did not spend any money! I am appalled that Mira Sorvino would do this movie, but I guess it was before she hit "big time". Hey, in case people do not know--Catalan is spoken in Barcelona more than Spanish (or English). You'd never know it from the movie--everyone speaks English! I am going to watch Gaudi Day next, another movie set in Barcelona. Till then, I am going to pass this one out to my friends who are into the Marquis De Sade!
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Too annoying to sit through.
matt_huntington13 December 2002
Whit Stillman has a knack for making really annoying and pointless movies about people who have no souls. I have never walked out of a movie theater during a movie, except for Barcelona.

A few years later, some friends of mine invited me to see Last Days of Disco. After two excruciating hours we walked out and it was only then that I saw the movie poster and realized it was a Whit Stillman film. I was instantly filled with regret that I had sat through this stultifying film, when I should have checked who the director was first, thereby avoiding the loss of those irretrievable hours. Stillman's talky, meandering films make you want to open up a vein. Boooring!
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No enlightenment for the American abroad
Philby-313 June 1999
It's the early 1980s and Ted, (Taylor Nichols) the twenty-something sales representative in Barcelona of the Chicago-based Very General Electric Co, has an unexpected and not very welcome house guest, his egregious cousin Fred, Lt. (j/g) U. S Navy (Chris Eigeman). Ostensibly, Fred has been sent to check out bars in advance of a fleet visit, but it's more likely he has been sent to Barcelona by some senior officer desperate to get rid of him.

Ted and Fred meet up with a group of attractive girls working at the Trade Centre and do some heavy-duty bar-crawling. Ted is recovering from a broken relationship and he soon becomes enamoured with the gorgeous Montserrat, one of the Trade Centre girls. This is despite his policy of not falling in love with good-looking women, because looks, he says, are a barrier to deep and meaningful relationships. She, however, is also involved with Ramon (Pep Munne), a local anti-American academic turned journalist. Ted, once inspired by Arthur Miller's great play, is no longer sure about his vocation as a salesman and is convinced he is going to be fired. Fred never lets the truth get in the way of a good story and tells the girls various preposterous things about Ted, including that he is a keen sado-masochist. This surprisingly arouses their interest, but Ted insists he is only going to bed with the woman he wants to marry, and that woman is Montse. But she seems to have taken up with Ramon again.

Things take a more serious turn when Fred, dressed in uniform, having previously been exposed in the local press by Ramon as a "AFL-CIA" agent, is shot while riding in a taxi by a man on a motor-scooter and lapses into a coma. Ted becomes quite obsessive and stays by Fred's hospital bedside around the clock talking and reading to him. The girls come too, reading such bed-time stories as "War and Peace". An emissary from Chicago arrives to talk about Ted's professional future and Fred fears the worst. But this is a comedy, not a drama, and things are resolved not too unpleasantly, with more than a touch of irony.

Critics have described this as a cerebral movie, and there is a lot of talk, but a lot of it can be described as only semi-intelligent. One feels sorry for Ted, stuck with such a selfish silly ass as Fred, his only cousin, but it's hard to extend the sympathy to Ted's overly serious attitude towards life in general. Here is a man who reads his bible (King James version) while jiving to the sound of Glen Miller. He needs to learn a little from the Spanish, one feels. Americans abroad, bearers of the dominant commercial culture, are, it seems slow to learn the value of other cultures. One would think that with a beautiful, educated and intelligent teacher such as Montse (played by an Australian, Tushka Bergen), Ted would catch on quick, but alas he is a slow pupil and does not change enough in time.

As a movie reflecting its location, this is a very fine effort indeed. Barcelona, as your correspondent can attest, is a truly gorgeous city and the bustle of the Ramblas - the bar and cafe life- is evident. Director Stillman passes on the Gaudi architecture, but we see lots of other fine buildings and vistas. It isn't a travel film, but it won't deter people from visiting Barcelona, especially the Trade Centre.

Part of a trio of "off-beat talkfests" - the others are "Metropolitan" (1990) and "The Last Days of Disco" (1998) - this one stands on its own as a wry comedy of manners. Why can't Americans understand why others are anti- American? Well you see it's because Americans are ants and can't see themselves as others do. The villains are those like Mario who report on the anthill to the rest of the world, for they are anti-American. At least that's one explanation offered in the film. Me, I think Americans, or at least privileged ones, are just plain spoilt - they've turned self-absorption into their way of life. But, as Stillman shows, they can provide amusement for the rest of us.
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4/10
One of the most boring and tedious films I've ever watched.
paikia24 April 2015
I noticed this movie has quite a lot of reviews here, some really positive, some really negative. Unfortunately, I'm siding with the negatives on this one.

It took me quite the effort to be patient and watch this movie all the (boring and tedious) way to the end, only to feel it ended up being a waste of time. I'm usually fond of drama movies and TV shows, but this one just seemed shallow and uninteresting. I couldn't get myself to give a sh!t about any of the characters or their stories, as there was nothing for me to relate to. I kept getting annoyed at the behavior of the two main characters, not being able to really figure them out. Some of the positive reviews I read here reminded me of the story of the Emperor's New Clothes, feeling that if it wasn't for the variety of individual tastes, I'd be one of the kids who would shout that the emperor was naked. But then again, can't argue with taste, so I can only express my own opinion here, which may or may not be similar to what anyone else is thinking.

My bottom line here, is that after reading some of the reviews and watching the movie myself, it's obviously not for everyone. Personally I hated it, but that might be just me. :)
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7/10
Barcelona
Scarecrow-8828 September 2014
Warning: Spoilers
While Metropolitan gets a lot of the love, I just prefer Barcelona, if just because I far enjoy the two characters in the latter while the former has a group of city socialites (U.H.P.s; or, if you prefer, preppies) so caught in themselves, I care little about spending time with them or listening to them. A salesman in Barcelona agrees to let his Navy fleet cousin stay with him, and the two of them must learn to get along, all the while managing relationships with local beauties in the city. In Barcelona, the presence of anti-American sentiment causes Fred (Chris Eigeman) to openly vocalize his dislike for how the locals treat him, particularly a womanizing journalist named Ramone (Pep Munné). While Ted (Taylor Nichols) feels as if his company is turning the screws and planning to fire him for his supposed downturn in sales, he becomes enchanted by one of Ramone's many flames, Montserrat (Tushka Bergen). Meanwhile Fred himself becomes involved with a stunning beauty named Marta (Mira Sorvino, quite eyepopping), but she turns out to be a wedge between the cousins when she steals pesos while in Ted's apartment. If you are familiar with Whit Stillman, then you can recognize that his work is quite dialogue-based with long conversation set pieces as actors comment on or voice opinions and thoughts on whatever subjects are important to their characters during the films. Barcelona is similar to Metropolitan in that the characters are concerned about their status in life (where they are and where they will be headed), such as career and romance. Ted deals with a girlfriend still stuck on Ramone (who actually encouraged her to see other men!) and a job (and supposed bullying supervisor that turns out to be anyone but) that demands a lot but could ultimately leave him behind. It gets so bad for Fred--all the negative American propaganda and prejudice encouraged by Ramone's paper and rhetoric--that he eventually is shot by a motorcyclist in a taxi cab. The shooting puts the relationship of the cousins into perspective. With the city of Barcelona as quite an alluring backdrop and characters who are a bit more sympathetic (or to me anyway) than Metropolitan (the wealthy class' romantic entanglements did little to interest me, I must be honest), I really remained compelled during this Stillman film. I quite liked Ted, actually, and seen that he was sincere in his desire to have a meaningful relationship with Montserrat, and truthfully Fred, despite his dependence on his cousin's charity, isn't all that bad of a guy. I think you can clearly see that despite their opposing animosity due to a number of personality differences ultimately would never interfere with their love for one another. The hospital sequence, where Ted never gives up hope for Fred's improvement, recognizes that family is significant even if cousins get on each other's nerves from time to time. The romantic interludes and ups and downs provide plenty of exchanges (melancholy, retrospective, expressive, heated, and curious) in long dialogue sessions that might test the patience on some viewers interested in a forward-moving story. If you know of the French dramas that can be long-winded, and like them, then I think Stillman is your cup of tea.
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7/10
Fine, unusual comedy
Andres Salama5 April 2014
During the 1980s, at the height of the Cold War, two American cousins and childhood friends, who are now a businessman and a naval officer (played by Taylor Nichols and Chris Eigeman) get to live some time in Barcelona, where they face (but finally overcome) the political distrust of many Spaniards. Director Whit Stillman lived some time in Spain and he surely based part of the movie on his own experiences. The movie is fine skewing the unthinking Antiamericanism of Europe's intellectual class (though Stillman is too much of a gentleman to be too biting in his criticism). Sometimes the dialogue is foolish when it tries to be witty (as when the Americans try to explain to some Spaniards the greatness of Hamburgers) but mostly the screenplay is quite fine. Stillman is an interesting filmmaker if only because his preppy conservative point of view is not often showed on movies. Mira Sorvino plays one of the Spanish girls in one of her earlier roles.
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6/10
Clever and witty
vabalos27 March 2004
This film is charming and witty and creates some interesting Cold War

metaphors balanced against the bumbling efforts of a couple of young American men trying to learn about themselves and women. it's an interesting film, not exactly a great one, but Stillman offers an entertaining premise and crafty execution. But what prompted me to write about it was the

dimwitted review by "nbott"your web site chose to post. What was obvious by his review was that he simply didn't get it. The film sailed miles over his head and then he compounded it by sharing his ignorance. Fine. But why do you chose to post that review. It offers nothing about the film and simply advertises this person's ignorance.
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5/10
This film has not aged well at all.
xavrush8914 May 2005
I saw this in the theatre when it came out and found it mildly amusing. But watching it at home recently was a dreary bore. To make matters worse, our political climate has rendered it completely obsolete. Much of the dialogue revolves around anti-American sentiment, which has only risen since the film's release. The Spaniards who seemed so harshly critical a decade ago seem to have had their stereotypes about the U.S. government validated.

The two main characters who are supposed to be defending the U.S.'s reputation once seemed somewhat witty, now they come across as whiny, self-absorbed fools. "Ted" launches into a monologue in defense of hamburgers--of all things--as if they were what America was all about. Burgers even make an appearance later in the film, reminding us as viewers how superficial these people are.

A couple of plot changes propelled the film into an unbelievable direction, and by the time the story wrapped up I had more than had my fill of these characters.

The only thing that was of marginal interest was Mira Sorvino before her Oscar win made her well-known. She actually does come across as Spanish. Her character's not very likable either, but at least she's portrayed well. The script is really what's at fault, and having not liked "The Last Days of Disco", I am beginning to wonder if maybe it's not a bad thing writer/director Whit Stillman stopped making films after the 'nineties ended.
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5/10
These WASP's just talk to much
rosscinema6 April 2004
Warning: Spoilers
I have to admit that this is a smart film geared to and about a demographic that studio executives can't even comprehend and that's young men in their late twenties and early thirties that are intelligent and working hard at their jobs. Story of course takes place in Barcelona, Spain in the early 1980's when the demise of the cold war left many confused about the state of things. Ted Boynton (Taylor Nichols) is a representative from a company in Chicago that builds electric engines and one day his cousin Fred (Chris Eigeman) comes to stay with him. Fred is a Lieutenant in the Navy and frequently he is called a fascist by people who walk by him. Ted falls in love with Montserrat (Tushka Bergen) but he has to deal with the fact that she has a boyfriend.

*****SPOILER ALERT*****

Fred hooks up with a girl named Marta (Mira Sorvino) and all of them talk (And talk!) about relationships with their partners and with each other and they also discuss their role as Americans in Barcelona. One day Fred is shot by a left wing extremist and put into a coma and while he is lying in a hospital Ted stays at his bedside where he rethinks about what is really important in life.

This film is written and directed by Whit Stillman who shows a fondness for his characters and his script does a good job of making each of them bright and literate so that there is no phoniness connected with any of them. But the main problem I have with this film is that it spends it's entire length and duration conversing about everything. The whole film seems like one long conversation and I do understand that this is what it wants to do but there is more talk going on in this film than "My Dinner With Andre". After a while the sense of pretentiousness and tedium become all to evident which is a shame because the intelligence and sincerity of the characters could have made this one of the more thought provoking films.
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8/10
the middle section of the film started to make me lose interest, but...
framptonhollis18 February 2018
While nowhere near as great as the last Whit Stillman film I saw ("Last Days of Disco"), I cannot deny "Barcelona" is a pretty impressive achievement for one reason above all that is largely personal to me and me alone. I found the first half hour of the film to be pretty great; it's funny, witty, always entertaining and fun to watch. But then, for the next twenty five minutes or so the film just kind of lost a lot of its flare. It's hard to really explain, but the film was really starting to get on my nerves. I am one for unlikable characters, but many of the characters and many of their conversations weren't really only unlikable, but kind of annoying. There were many great little comical moments here, and Chris Eigeman's character was great and, to me, extremely likable as always, despite his sometimes obnoxious behavior, but, overall, this is where the movie fell flat for me, and I was ready to give it a bad review but THEN the last half hour rolls along and the film becomes absolutely brilliant and fixes all the problems I was having with it. It becomes much more dramatic, but still hilarious, and really helps one understand the characters and their relationships to that which surrounds them. The dialogue gets even better, and there is genuine heart placed perfectly within each scene. Even when the characters are not being exactly likable, there is a much less obnoxious flavor to them, and they are much more understandable and easy for me to get behind and (more importantly) actually enjoy watching. So, "Barcelona" is a really rare movie for me. It starts off great, becomes (at best) kind of irritating but still semi-entertaining, and then ends masterfully. If only that mid-section could at all match that which proceeds and follows it, then this film would be a true masterpiece and perhaps even superior to "The Last Days of Disco", a film that I feel is infinitely more rewatchable for the sole purpose of it never having a dull or "irritating" moment, no matter how likable or unlikable the characters' behavior may be.
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10/10
A great film that I have remembered for 20 years
elcoat23 December 2015
Warning: Spoilers
People either like or hate this film, it seems.

I was intrigued. Here you have 2 cousins encountering each other ... and some beautiful Spanish girls ... in beautiful Red Barcelona. Ted seems to need a rationale for everything including love and sex, although he is assured by cousin and girls that love isn't necessarily necessary.

Fred is a spontaneous young U.S. Navy officer mis-missioned to prepare a Barcelona port call for the 6th Fleet, while resident leftists in Barcelona are ready and eager to take offense at anything he says which they can.

There is tension between them over something Ted still accuses Fred of doing I forget what, but it's a lifelong grudge - when they were kids.

The very political Barcelona situation and crisis revolves around an ant analogy that has to be seen and heard to be fully appreciated.

Meanwhile, the camera periodically cuts away to a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier out in the Mediterranean, patrolling to ensure Middle Sea stability and peace.

Eventually, the hottest girl turns out to be unfaithful, a thief and possible a drug addict, while a hitherto unnoticed girl throws herself at the foot of Fred's hospital bed, desperately attempting to pray him back from death - a very overlooked and significant scene.

The outcome is as droll as the rest of the film and leaves you with a good, uplifted feeling about and hope for life and being an American.

It is a film you will think about for years ... if you like to think.
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