Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008)
Director - Woody Allen
Writer - Woody Allen
Tagline - Life is the ultimate work of art
Rebecca Hall – Vicky
Scarlett Johansson – Cristina
Javier Bardem – Juan Antonio
Penélope Cruz – Maria Elena
Christopher Evan Welch – Narrator
There is something magical about being young and optimistic. The world is there for the taking and all you have to do is reach out and grab it – that is, as long as you can figure out what exactly it is that you want. And what if you do know what you want? Or, at least you think you do, but come to find that you don’t, and maybe, just maybe, the things you do want are not what are best for you, but how do you really know, because you’ve thought you knew what you wanted for so long?
And so we dance.
Director/Writer Woody Allen presents to us the timeless story of young people going off to a foreign land in search of something. Of course it is much more complicated than that. Through the use of a narrator (Christopher Evan Welch) we are told the story of Vicky (Rebecca Hall) and Cristina (Scarlett Johansson), two young American friends with very different views on life, who travel to Barcelona to spend the Summer with Vicki’s relatives. Vicky is the safe one. She is engaged to a safe man and she spends a lot of time studying everything. Cristina is impulsive and romantic, and were she to find herself in a stable relationship for just a bit too long she would figure out what she didn’t like and move on.
The story moves forward very quickly once the two women meet a mysterious painter, Juan Antonio played by Javier Bardem, a rather interesting change from his previous role as the psychopathic killer Anton Chigurh in 2007s No Country for Old Men. Through his charm and Cristina’s need to explore, the three of them find themselves on a whirl-wind romance of mind and body, in which you the viewer is lead down a fairly certain path only to find yourself coming to a fork in the road.
I admit I am not well-versed in Woody Allen films, and what I have seen did not really blow me away. In a vacuum this movie blew me away. When I first saw this film I proclaimed that it would be in my top 5 of the year, and that is where it has stayed, although it had some very strong late competition.
Perhaps what I liked most about this film, and why I praise it so much, is that even though the story is a little far-fetched, it is totally plausible. I’m sure there are some very charming Spanish men out there meeting American girls every day, seducing them. Just as I am sure there are friends travelling together with different types of lives. I won’t give out spoilers on the Penélope Cruz character Maria Elena, but just know she is my pick for the Oscar as Best Supporting Actress. She brings such a fire to this role and you find yourself thinking of people you know who act like this, and saying wow, what an impressive job she does.
The narrator’s voice over can be a bit much, for this film I did not really mind him telling us a lot of the background. Some movies need to show and not tell, but I thought this one got by just fine. I laughed a lot at this film, but I also took it to heart and viewed it as a serious piece of commentary.
Note: This is a re-write from my previous version, which was not a full review.