Vicky Cristina Barcelona
- Rebecca Hall as Vicky
- Scarlett Johansson as Cristina
- Javier Bardem as Juan Antonio
- Penélope Cruz as Maria Elena
- Patricia Clarkson as Judy
- Chris Messina as Doug
- Christopher Evan Welch as Narrator
Witty, sexy yet tinged with a longing and pervading melancholy, Woody Allen’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona is an ambivalent examination of love, sex and discovery that is dappled in sun and filled with engaging work from the cast.
Best friends Vicky and Cristina decide to vacation for the summer in Barcelona and stay her distant relative Judy, who has agreed to put them up. For the straight-laced and cautious Vicky, who is engaged to be married to dull Doug, it is a trip to conduct her research on Catalan culture. Yet for the restless and searching Cristina, it is somewhere to explore and find a way to express herself and love, which so far she has found hard to do so. The two young ladies soon catch the eye of handsome artist Juan Antonio when at a party. The seductive painter was once in a stormy relationship with a fiery woman that ended in near death. The seductive painter approaches both ladies with a brazen request to spend the weekend with him, where he hopes they will enjoy dinner, see the sights and eventually fall into bed with each other. The spontaneous Cristina is immediately won over as the hint of a little naughtiness entices her, while Vicky is skeptical but tags along to keep tabs on Cristina. As the weekend progresses both women become attracted to Juan Antonio, culminating in the engaged Vicky surrendering to a highly charged encounter with him. Although Vicky attempts to forget her night of passion, she simply can’t deny being enamoured with Juan Antonio and attempts to stifle her guilt at cheating on her fiancée. Meanwhile Cristina grows closer to the artist and vice versa, leading her to quickly move in with him. Yet trouble and upheaval is just around the corner as Maria Elena, Juan Antonio’s ex-wife arrives back on the scene setting in motion a conflicting love triangle. Or should that be love quadrangle?
As both writer and director, Woody Allen’s witty dialogue and confidentially fluid direction makes Vicky Cristina Barcelona go along at a lively place, much like the electricity that sparks between the four characters. Allen has a lot to say about modern relationships and the complexities of the heart and he adroitly examines these subjects with both a passion, longing and wit. I liked how for a move that on the surface seems warm and breezy, there are touches of darkness and unearthed desires looming large over it. I thought this added another layer of engaging quality to the story blending laughs with some pathos. Visually, Vicky Cristina Barcelona is sublime and gorgeous. Wrapped in gold hues that invite you in and paint a sexy atmosphere, the cinematography is breathtakingly lovely and at times look downright delectable with its honeyed tint. Now there is one point of contention that lies within Vicky Cristina Barcelona and that is the narration. Not that it isn’t good, it is just something of a double-edged sword. It does well in setting up and closing the story, but for most of the time it is a little superfluous. That being said the voice of Christopher Evan Welch is engaging enough, it is just overused. Still this shouldn’t put you off because the movie is witty and engaging nonetheless. A sizzling soundtrack of Spanish guitars, quick drums and passion filled voices is an excellent companion to the various switches of romance and the clash of the heart and head when sensuality enters the picture.
Woody Allen assembles a very impressive cast who fill his words and characters with verve and talent. Rebecca Hall makes quite an impression playing Vicky, who is the more traditional and serious of the two best friends. We glimpse through her movements and facial expressions the suppression of desires and how it rises within Vicky as something she can’t keep control of as the vacation goes on. Scarlett Johansson is natural and footloose as the free spirit that is Cristina, who also has her own conflicts over her opinion of herself and wants to find her meaning. There is a real vibrancy and playfulness to the performance from Johansson that is hard to ignore and a real subtle beauty too. Then we have Javier Bardem who has all the necessary charm and seductive presence to burn as Juan Antonio. Yet what is really good about his performance is the way he injects it with a humour and soulfulness that in the hands of any other actor wouldn’t have worked. It is however Penélope Cruz that makes the largest impact in a role that garnered her a deserved Best Supporting Actress Oscar. Playing the unstable spitfire Maria Elena as a whirling dervish of emotion, Cruz captures the mercurial temperament, sensuality and all-consuming passion of this woman. From the moment she appears on screen, you just know that Penélope Cruz is going to own the role with her talent and unique way You simply can’t take your eyes of Cruz as she completely steals the show with a performance of both tragic and comic dimensions that threatens to ignite the screen with its fiery presence. Patricia Clarkson has a neat supporting role as the philandering wife who pushes Vicky to act with her heart and Chris Messina has the distracted dullness that makes you see why Vicky would consider a dalliance with another.
A fine romantic comedy/drama from Woody Allen, Vicky Cristina Barcelona is a movie that is as lush and as sumptuous as the scenery, but unpredictable and stormy as the heart itself.