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Although this film has bizarrely been described as breezy summer
entertainment by some top critics (which leads me to wonder if they saw
the same movie I did, or just the first half hour), "Vicky Cristina
Barcelona" is the closest thing to the sort of examination of
relationships that Allen became famous for in quite some time
("Anything Else" counts, I suppose, but lacks the sharpness this film
has), and although it is far from as weighty as some of his dramas or
even some of his comedies, this is his first really inspired script in
a while, featuring a cast of detailed, well-developed characters, some
razor-sharp observations on relationships, and a wicked sense of humor.
Although I never thought Woody's work this decade was particularly poor (other than "Cassandra's Dream" and although I'm in a minority "Match Point"), it has mostly been completely inconsequential and almost entirely dependent on broad characterizations and heavy plotting rather than real people and awkwardly comic situations (which has always been Allen's strong suit). A career-best performance from Scarlett Johansson, a wickedly entertaining turn from Penelope Cruz, and the absolute revelation that is Rebecca Hall form a great cast along with Javier Bardem in a role that may surprise the majority of the American public (well, for most of the movie, anyway). You can feel Allen's mark on their mannerisms, but they all seem to disappear into these characters, that's how good they are.
I'm keeping this as spoiler-free as possible, because it's really worth going into the theater not expecting anything in particular and savoring the film's often unexpected but never contrived plot twists and turns. All you should know is that Vicky (Rebecca Hall) and Cristina (Scarlett Johansson) go to Barcelona for the summer and things get complicated when they meet a charming, mysterious, and rich painter (Javier Bardem) and he makes a rather upfront proposition to both of them. It's best if you know nothing of how Cruz' character impacts the film prior to watching it.
In relation to Allen's other work I thought it was interesting that he never attempted to analyze sex. The whole movie is in many ways about sex, and there is a lot of the expected philosophical and psychological examination of the relationships between the characters in the film, but sex itself is never analyzed as it is in much of Allen's work, and is instead treated as the impenetrable mystery it is. That said, Allen's script is extraordinarily nuanced, something that I haven't expected from his writing in a while. Sure, the characters still represent opposing romantic philosophies, but there's a spark in the writing that makes these feel like real people as opposed to mere characters. That spark, that chemistry is there throughout "Vicky Cristina Barcelona", it's there in the vibrant cinematography by Javier Aguirresarobe, it's there in the performances, it's there in the shot composition, and it's there in the editing, and in pretty much anything else I haven't mentioned yet.
The first forty minutes or so of "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" may be the sort of romantic comedy (very good romantic comedy, at that) that the advertising campaign seems to suggest it is, but for the rest of the film there's the sort of pessimistic optimism that colors much of Allen's work (if that makes sense, pretend you didn't read it if it didn't), and let's just say it doesn't end well for these characters. There's real complexity and intensity in this film, and all I have to say is this: Woody Allen is back, the perceptive, intelligent examiner of the human heart, that is, not what we've had for the past while. To say this is one of his best films would be ignoring the fact that through the 70's and 80's he pretty much made nothing but great films, but I can at least say that this is on par with some of his better work.
Vicky (a neurotic and sexy Rebecca Hall) and Cristina (a neurotic and
gorgeous Scarlett Johansson) are two American tourists in Spain
examining their differing views on love in Woody Allen's breezy and
alluring "Vicky Cristina Barcelona". Amidst a tempestuous summer in
Barcelona, the ladies are both seduced by a free-thinking painter (a
perfect Javier Bardem) whose own life is complicated by his still
passionate relationship with his ex-wife (a devastating Penelope Cruz,
who has never looked more beautiful).
Much like the change from New York City to London invigorated Allen in "Match Point", this vacation to Spain has revived some of the director's more artistic aspirations. The scenery is postcard perfect but drenched in that same dizzying lushness that made Allen's view of NYC so intoxicating in "Manhattan". The churches, the homes, the art museums, the countryside, the intimate city streets and touristy details make you feel like you are visiting Barcelona along with Allen and his cast.
There's also sharpness to the trademark Woody dialog that has been missing for quite some time. Like all of Allen films, this one is endlessly talky, but there's some great subversion when certain lines that seem like throw-aways actually pack a punch when given a second thought. When Bardem first attempts to talk Johansson's character into bed, he says something clichéd about her being hard to please. Quick witted, Johansson replies, "I'm famous for my intolerance." She says it casually, but it packs a bite as it's the complete antithesis of her character's outward desire to be someone who rallies against cultural norms, and she presents herself as someone who is easy-going and tolerant of all.
Allen also displays a keen sense of pacing when he creates tension in his build up to Cruz's appearance after her character is endlessly talked about but never seen until about half way through the film. When Cruz finally arrives, her moody whirling dervish of a performance is the perfect spice to liven up the soupy proceedings. Her seething, fiery line readings combined with looks that could kill make her the front-runner for Best Supporting Actress at the Oscars.
The baseline archetypal characters are essentially clichéd, but the way in which Allen handles all of their interpersonal relationships is fairly sophisticated and entertaining even when it grows absurd. There is of course that kiss between Scarlett and Penelope but also some moments of Lynchian-lite when Allen photographs the brunette Hall and blonde Johansson similarly to make them seem like they are two sides of the same woman. There's even more weirdness when die-hard Woody fans realize that in some perverse way Scarlett Johansson's character is the "Woody" part--as in any film he does not star, there is always one character who represents the part he would've played had he been in it. However, film buffs will enjoy some of the nice touches like when Hall and another go to see Hitchcock's "Shadow of a Doubt" (one of my all time favorite films) or the repetitive use of a Spanish guitar in the soundtrack whenever Bardem and Hall get together. But then there's the mostly unnecessary voice-over narration that fills in expository gaps and shows Allen can still be a lazy tactician.
Woody Allen has always been an acquired taste, even more so in his latter years when he sometimes forgets how to provoke, but his fans should be delighted with this latest European flavored effort. In the end, you'll feel like Javier Bardem is the luckiest man in the world, Penelope Cruz is operating at the echelon of her appeal, and Rebecca Hall and Scarlett Johansson, well, they'll always have Barcelona.
I just got back from a free screening of this movie. Wonderful, brilliant, thought provoking, funny, great story in the way only Woody Allen could do. The acting was great, the writing was great, the story was great. As well as the fact that it wasn't a poor rehash of Crimes and Misdemeanors like Match Point and Cassandra's Dream. So refreshing on all levels. Javier Bardem embodies the character and truly allows me to forget about his role in Old Country. Patricia Clarkson, a gem as always. The girls were all great. Had not been impressed with Scarlett Johansson since Lost in Translation and was bored with her work in the last of his films but she held her own and did the part great. Penélope Cruz was wonderful, vibrate and funny especially when doing the Spanish. At 71 the man still has it and has rehashed the place in my heart where I hold his wonderful art. Simply happy and fulfilled. Thank you Woody!
Vicky Christina Barcelona isn't quite the work of genius that several
critics are making it out to be, but it is Woody Allen's most solid
film in nearly a decade and by far his sexiest.
I will admit that the claims that it's his best movie in 20 years may have raised my expectations unfairly. After all, the past two decades has brought us Sweet and Lowdown (inspired Sean Penn and Samantha Morton), Another Woman (inspired Gena Rowlands), Husbands and Wives (inspired Judy Davis), Bullets Over Broadway ("Don't Speak!") and what, in my humble opinion, is his most extraordinary film ever: Crimes and Misdemeanors.
That said, there is much in the film's Plus Column. Bardem has never been sexier in English. Rebecca Hall is a sublime revelation. Scarlett Johansson does her most consistent and least grating work since Girl With the Pearl Earring. The supporting cast is a treasure trove of great character actors: Kevin Dunn (usually but effectively charmless), Chris Messina (a complicated mix of sexy and dull), Pablo Schreiber (virtually a cameo), and Patricia Clarkson (earthy, tragic and terrific as always).
And then there's Penelope Cruz. Incapable of wrong-doing in my eyes since All About My Mother, she is everything you've heard she is. At first, the character appears to be another version of Rahda Mitchell's bad Melinda only dark and Spanish. But she evolves and blossoms, like a mushroom cloud in slow motion.
The story is simple and the structure is a bit unwieldy. As a result, the film feels longer than it is and while it does saunter, it's never boring. The screenplay seems more concerned with re-arranging the configurations of lovers and exploring its themes than it does with sustaining the dramatic tension.
The films only significant, though ultimately not fatal, flaw is Miss Johansson. For the legions who thought Javier Bardem could generate romantic and sexual chemistry with anyone or anything, well, I have bad news. When she is sharing the screen with both Bardem and Cruz, Johansson's limitations as an actor and as a screen presence.
Ultimately, though, Vicky Christina Barcelona is still a worthwhile endeavor. An enjoyable romp filled the requisite angst and passion of Woody Allen's better efforts. Best of all, there's Spain and Barcelona. The landscapes, people and architecture provide even more spectacular real estate porn than Melinda & Melinda. Not only does it make you want to go to Barcelona, it will make you feel like you've lived there and loved it.
Despite its unevenness,
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
First of all i would like to say that I'm a big fan of the old woody
Allen , i mean the great director/writer woody Allen , who created in
over thirty years in the business some of the most romantic , funny .
dramatic , masterpieces that shined in Hollywood starting from Annie
Hall , to Hannah and her sisters , Mighty Aphrodite , and last but not
least Sweet and lowdown . But the new woody Allen has produced many
unbalanced , mildly funny , and romantically dead movies such as
Melinda and Melinda which was acceptable , but not a woody Allen
material , Hollywood Ending which wasn't so bad as well but wasn't good
either , and this year his latest film came out and i had mixed feeling
about it , i was frightened that another disappointing movie from the
master Allen could destroy my love to his earlier masterpieces , and
unfortunately , it was even more disappointing than i could ever
The movie's basic concept is actually more similar to a combination of Baywatch and Desperate housewives , but apparently with higher level of acting . It's about two amazingly beautiful women Vicky (Rebecca hall) the committed ,engaged , and somehow mature woman who chose Barcelona to get her masters degree in Catalan Identity , and Cristina(Scarlett Johansson) , the spontaneous , free spirited , less mature who came to Barcelona in a self finding journey . Vicky and Cristina Meet Juan Antonie the passionate painter who suffers after a bad split from his girlfriend Marie Elena who tried to kill , Juan Antonia has an affair with Vicky, before he gets involved in a relationship with Cristina , then Marie Elena comes back in the picture and lives with Cristina and Juan Antonia , after she tried to kill herself . However i can't see the whole point of the movie , and as i said before the movie is an odd combination of Baywatch and desperate housewives ,because so many affairs happen during it's kind of short length , and it's basically about good-looking people showing off on screen with good acting skills , but no real sense of the movie . but Despite that Penelope Cruz managed to catch the eye with a very good performance that actually was the most and only beautiful thing in the movie .
In The end i really hope that Woody Allen comes back to what he did before making great movies and entertaining , and making millions of people all around the globe laugh .
Vicky Cristina Barcelona is among the cream of the Woody Allen crop, in
the midst of Annie Hall, Manhattan, Hannah and Her Sisters and Match
Point. It may even be a wiser film than any of them. What Woody has
done throughout his film career is seek the answers to his own life
questions in any number of ways. Some later films contradict the
philosophical implications of previous ones. Some reaffirm them. His
foremost theme has always been the complications of love and sex, and
this ultimately genre-less film that I suppose could be considered a
romantic seriocomedy may be his magnum opus of his sexual and romantic
Vicky, played by Rebecca Hall, and Cristina, by Scarlet Johansson, go to Barcelona for the summer, settling with Vicky's distant relative (Patricia Clarkson) and her husband. A Narrator, present all through the film, the particular matter-of-fact likes of which Allen has never before used, illustrates the two friends: Vicky is no-nonsense and conservative in her attitude toward love and commitment, engaged to the dependable but less than passionate yuppie. She is in Barcelona getting her masters, and is deeply stirred by Spanish guitar. Cristina, in contrast, is impulsive and irresolute of what she wants in life. She is just out of a relationship and wants to forget about her experience making a short film about Love, perhaps a nod to Woody's own admitted negative reflections on his previous works.
At an art exhibition, these two symbolically contrasting women observe a notorious painter, played with suavity and charisma by Javier Bardem. Cristina is immediately fascinated with him, and grows captivated when she and Vicky learn that he has undergone a violent relationship with his ex-wife. Later, the girls spot him in a restaurant, where he stoically approaches their table and unexpectedly invites them to go along with him to Oviedo, where they will tour, wine, dine and, with any luck, make love. Straight away Cristina consents, Vicky refuses, but Vicky is is ultimately persuaded and the twosome go with the self- designed artistic and drifting romantic on a small private plane through a rainstorm.
What follows is a free-flowing rectangle of romance with any combination of Bardem, Vicky, Cristina, and Bardem's unmanageably volatile ex-wife Penelope Cruz, who deserves an Oscar nomination for her work here. There are many ways in which the two American women change for the better and change not at all. One facet of the story is a clash of conventional American and liberated European cultures. Another is spiritual freedom, signified by Vicky's conventional reticence and thus conflicted feelings that she may be missing out on so much, and Cristina's mutability. A lesser title for the movie but an apt one nonetheless could have been Why Not?
Woody is expressing through his characters his urge to be free of all psychological and emotional restrictions. In any case, characters as open as Scarlett Johansson and Javier Bardem's seem to need similarly adaptable significant others. I find it interesting that Louise Lasser, Diane Keaton and Mia Farrow, Woody's women, all brought out their inner nebbishes due to intimate involvement with him, as in his eagerness to lift a lover's state of mind, he ends up, sooner or later, virtually turning his woman roughly into a female version of himself. Johansson and Hall's summer in Spain, if anything, releases them from the sludge of mediocrity, particularly that which results from fear and common custom.
By saying all that, I have not even come close to giving anything away. The way things turn out would hardly make sense to characters like Vicky, or her fiancé, and that is what makes it a natural flow from the heart. Woody Allen's brilliantly written, guilelessly directed and convincingly acted Spanish debut-and-swan song is not a comedy for the same reasons as nearly every other comedy Woody has made. It is a comedy essentially because of the culture clash. The film depends on our reactions to things that really are not inherently funny except to unaccustomed eyes. Likewise, the bewildered Americans are just as funny from the other side of the gamut. Without any doubt in my mind, this is not only Woody Allen's best film in years, but one of his very best of his entire 42-film, 42-year career as a writer-director of consistently good films.
Barcelona is recognizable enough and exotic enough to frame the latest complication from Woody Allen. Allen himself claims to care very little about films. He doesn't consider them the center of his life. Strange, because I do, Woody Allen without his films is...well I don't know who or what he is. Here he ventures again outside New York in a shape and form that reminded me a little bit of Jacques Rivette. Scarlet Johansson and Rebecca Hall, as the blond and the brunette of the title, make a great pair of opposites or seemingly so. Javier Bardem is the artist that comes to ruffle their world and the spectacular Penelope Cruz (getting better and better with every movie) is the hysterical side of the artist's past. We spend a great deal of time sitting at tables eating and drinking while a voice over guide us through their physical and emotional journey. I was delighted, entertained ever aroused. Woody Allen keeps surprising and he's got it whether he cares about it or not.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
To be true, I really enjoy Woddy Allen's work. When I heard that this
film was on making the first thing I thought was «gotta see it». And to
be sincere too, I was very disappointed for the results.
Even only lasting an hour and a half it felt very long. None of the action is plausible, none of the interpretations are convincing and none of the characters are fully developed. The soundtrack keeps going most of the film and it becomes so noisy that goes from interesting to a nuisance. I am sorry to bash the film this way but the script felt so childish as it was written by a teenager in love. There is no really turn-over in the history, no surprises, nothing new under the sun. The darkroom scenes were some kind of fan-service, the bed scene with Scarlett was lengthy and poor and character of Vicky feels mostly dull.
The film would have left me a better taste if at least Maria Elena seemed truly mad: when Cristina tells them she is leaving Maria's reaction goes down to sadness because a sexual lose. What comes to the spectator's mind is «this is wrong, it seems that Woddy Allen just wanted to film these to women, not to make a film». In a word, this film feels like a high school project more than multimillion production.
I cannot really understand what all these eight-star reviewers feel for it.
When Match Point came out in 2005, I was impressed, but no blown away
like most of the public and critics. I thought it was an interesting
movie that dealt with dark issues, but it didn't feel like Woody Allen.
Scoop was a cute movie, but felt like fluff.
I am here to tell you after going on opening night that VICKY Christina BARCELONA isn't only enchanting, but so well written. I always look forward to Woody's writing because he is the best. The film just looks beautiful from the way it is shot. Javier, Scarlett and Cruz (Hilarous) are all good, but it is Rebecca Hall who stands out in this picture; giving Vicky such depth and character.
Allen is just the master. In the summer of effects and action, it is nice to have a film with such wit and smart observation in it. GO SEE IT!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Some have commented about the use of a narrator. Yes, that was lazy and
intrusive, but not nearly the worst part of this boring mess of a film.
And I wouldn't care if Woody Allen wasn't the director and writer - at
this point I just watch films for what they are, not who was involved
in making them. I found myself trying to stay awake while watching it,
but when it had my full attention, I found myself amazed at the
flimsiness being presented. Boring, self-indulgent people walking
around a beautiful city, not knowing what they really wanted out of
life, not really interested in anyone or anything else, except for what
it meant to themselves.
And yes, Johansson's performance was quite bad, as others have mentioned, but it actually was consistent with the tone of the film, if that's in any way a "positive." There was a turning point, however, which I thought might save the film, at least to some degree, and that occurred when the Johansson character decided she no longer wanted to be in the menage a trois situation. When the viewer isn't given any reason for this decision, I had to laugh, because that was the final confirmation of my thoughts up to that point. Like Johansson, the paintings, which were just AbEx rip-offs, reflected the lack of overall depth the viewer is compelled to endure.
These are just unappealing, narcissistic people I would not want to know. Their only goals in life concern self satisfaction, and the viewer isn't even given a reason why this is the case. Is it that Woody himself is now like this and assumes everyone else in the world is? That's really the only somewhat interesting thing that I took from this film. Unlike in some of his early films, there is no sardonic wit here, or anything else that would allow us to find something special about this. If someone else had given us this film, especially if it was a young person, I'd think that this person had a lot of "growing up" to do. The people in this film are the kind of bit-part characters that the main characters in Woody's best films would make fun of !
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