← Back to Reviews

Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Vicky Cristina Barcelona (Woody Allen, 2008)

Woody Allen's latest treads similar territory as some of his classics. He's basically dealing with how people deal with love, how love influences passion, how passion influences people's lifestyle choices, and how everything can all be undone if passion overrules love and comfort, even as comfort can constrain you from passion. Why do the people who seem to be the most in love end up becoming incapable of even being in the same room together? This film may well be a conglomeration of Love and Death, Manhattan and Hannah and Her Sisters, but it's much more European in the way it handles sex, passion and commitment than most of Woody's movies. It may be because the hot-blooded Spaniards Javier Bardem and Penélope Cruz are the most influential characters in the flick. They are both charming, wonderful and dangerous. In fact, if enough people see the film, I wouldn't be surprised if Cruz got an Oscar nom for Best Supporting Actress.

The main characters, at least those Americans who are presented up front, are sorta schematically drawn as the person who craves order, respect and lifelong commitment, and that would be Vicky (the wonderful Rebecca Hall, trying her darndest to be as neurotic as Woody) and the seemingly free-spirited, sexually-liberated Cristina (Scarlett Johansson). They are both on a European vacation and end up their last two months of the Summer staying in Barcelona with Vicky's family friend (Patricia Clarkson) who is stuck in a "comfortable, yet passionless" marriage.

Things progress when the Javier Bardem character, a "passionate" painter, comes on to both young women, pitching the idea of a quick vacation to an exotic location where a ménage à trois will happen immediately if he has his way. I neglected to mention that Vicky is engaged to Doug (Chris Messina), as nice as a money-grubbing, unpassionate kinda American pseudo-Capitalist could ever be. Well, things happen, and they don't happen the way you might expect.

The most important thing about the movie is that things get turned on their head and that love, commitment, passion, artistic integrity and a complete disregard for basic concepts of love and marriage are pretty much tossed to the wind while the film seeks true love and passion. The fact that the film cannot find any such thing as true love isn't really cynical to me. It's more of a wake-up call to the reality of this world. Woody is evolving, even if this film may be just a bit too sly for its own good. In fact, it's so sly and so low-key that it was often difficult for me to consider that I was watching an intentional comedy. Oh yeah, I laughed out loud a few times, but more often than that, I was left wondering if I was supposed to admire Woody's restraint in limning such an intense drama or scratch my head because his comedy seemed to just not be that funny.