In English & Spanish with English Subtitles
Director: Woody Allen
Cast: Scarlett Johansson, Penelope Cruz, Javier
Bardem, Rebecca Hall, Chris Messina, Patricia Clarkson, Kevin
RunTime: 1 hr 36 mins
Released By: Festive Films
Rating: M18 (Mature Theme)
Official Website: http://www.vickycristina-movie.com/
Opening Day: 25 September 2008
Just as New York City was the backdrop in Woody Allen’s
“Manhattan”, the stunning city of Barcelona in
the setting for the romantic adventures of Vicky and Cristina.
These two young Americans spend a summer in Spain and meet
a flamboyant artist (Javier Bardem) and his beautiful but
insane ex-wife (Penelope Cruz). Vicky (Rebecca Hall) is straight-laced
and about to be married. Cristina (Scarlett Johansson) is
a sexually adventurous free spirit. When they all become amorously
entangled, the results can only be described as chaotic. Barcelona
is seen as a very beautiful, romantic city like New York was
in the movie, MANHATTAN.
There is something about Europe that has left Woody Allen
After more than three decades of filmmaking, the 74-year old
prolific director has of late found a muse in the continent’s
cities of London and now, Barcelona. But hey, if the results
are as fresh and charming as Vicky Cristina Barcelona, it
is probably the closest thing to a creative resurrection for
someone best known for his on-screen neurotic characters.
Allen’s latest tells of two American tourists Vicky
and Cristina on their summer vacation to Barcelona. Vicky
(Rebecca Hall) is sensible and down-to-earth, engaged to a
fiancé stable and independent. She knows what she wants.
Cristina (Scarlett Johansson) is dreamy and passionate, a
free spirit in search of adventure. She knows only what she
does not want.
One chance encounter with a celebrated painter Juan Antonio
leads them down unexpected paths. Juan Antonio invites the
girls spontaneously to a weekend getaway, to Vicky’s
initial reproach and Cristina’s delight. But they go
along, taking in the sights and sounds of the cities of Gaudi
and Miro, their fascination a vicarious expression of Woody
Allen’s own with the city’s many delights- art,
music, culture and most importantly, passion as embodied by
Juan Antonio and his subsequent romantic dalliances with both
Vicky and Cristina.
The sense of romanticism about Barcelona is really therefore
ripe fodder for Allen’s pet musings of the ironies of
life and love. The once-sure Vicky will be left questioning
the wisdom of her marriage, her heart tugging in a different
direction after a passionate night with Juan. And the once-unsure
Cristina will find her place with Juan Antonio, moving into
his house and beginning what seems a stable relationship.
Knowing Allen, however, such a happy ending for Cristina would
be too easy. Instead, just when Cristina thinks she has her
life figured in, in comes Juan Antonio’s fiery ex-wife,
Maria Elena (Penelope Cruz), the two as Juan would put it
'are meant for each other and not meant for each other'. "It’s
a contradiction," Juan adds.
Relinquishing his infamous bob from his award-winning turn
in "No Country For Old Men", Javier Bardem plays
it cool and charming as Juan Antonio. He injects much charisma
and allure into his character, making sure that Juan Antonio
is never just a cinematic stereotype of the passionate Latin
lover. He is matched most competently by the fiery Ms Cruz.
Though only appearing in the second half of the film, she
steals every scene she’s in, relishing her role as the
sizzling, fierce and intense Maria Elena.
Between Vicky and Cristina, Rebecca Hall’s performance
as Vicky is the more endearing to watch. Hall fills her character
with a palpable sense of doubt and longing, her dilemma at
once reminiscent of the quandary we often face between what
the heart feels and the mind knows. Scarlett Johansson, on
the other hand, plays Cristina 'Woody Allen-lite', the mildly
neurotic person she played with more zest in her earlier Allen
Woody Allen’s writing here as usual brims with his dry
wit and humour. He chooses to tell the story with a third-person
narration, which may seem a little intrusive at first but
in fact helps weave the story fluidly. The voice may belong
to actor Christopher Evan Welch, but the words no doubt belong
rightfully to Allen himself.
As it is, Vicky Cristina Barcelona probably doesn’t
stand up to Allen’s best works. Still, the dialogue
sparkles, the scenery is magnificent, and the actors are appealing.
Allen is out to amuse us and make us ponder over the nature
of love and passion, though not in a deep way. The result
of which is an entertaining trifle, but hey, Allen at his
mid-range is still way better than a lot of other stuff that’s
out there at the movies.
(As London once did, Barcelona has revived the creative
juices of Woody Allen, and his latest of Vicky and Cristina
in Barcelona is just the proof of that)
Review by Gabriel Chong