DIR/WRI: Woody Allen • PRO: Letty Aronson Stephen Tenenbaum, Gareth Wiley • DOP: Javier Aguirresarobe • ED: Alisa Lepselter • DES: Alain Bainée • CAST: Rebecca Hall, Scarlett Johansson, Javier Bardem, Penélope Cruz
Woody Allen, master writer-director of the Jewish New York comedy, throws his faithful fans a witty, yet serious film that asks ‘why is love so hard to define?’ Being known for his artsy, intellectual characters of privileged means and ultra New York-ified scripts, Vicky Cristina Barcelona is typical Woody Allen – but set in Spain…
Two young friends, bohemian Cristina and intellectual Vicky, arrive in Barcelona for a summer adventure. Split screens and a narrator whimsically explain that though the two women are best of friends, they are polar opposites when it comes to love, which, I suppose in a Woody Allen microcosm, translates to them being polar opposites when it comes to the world. Cristina: artistic, insatiable and uncommitted, alongside Vicky: practical, rational, and about to be married. The ensuing drama can only be described as angst-filled, tragically romantic whimsy, transpiring between people of talent, beauty and privilege. Juan Antonio, a painter whose tempestuous marriage ended in a rain of gossip throughout the art scene, lands both women into the middle of the stormy relationship between himself and his ex-wife, Maria Elena. A weekend in Oviedo with the bluntly flirtatious Spanish painter ultimately challenges the rigidly held views of both Vicky and Cristina.
Javier Bardem (No Country for Old Men) as Juan Antonio and Penélope Cruz (Vanilla Sky) as María Elena steal the show as their passionately violent relationship upstages even Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. Cruz’s Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress legitimizes not only the film but the power of its performances.
Melodramatic, yet tempered with good old-fashioned ‘get on with it girl’ attitude and ‘can do’ solution-oriented rationalizations, the script for Vicky Cristina Barcelona is nothing short of brilliant. Allen manages to create a borderline pretentious flirtation in his characters between what one must do and what one wants to do in relationships, with, of course, a whole lot of feelings tempered by the unavoidable siren call of the insatiable: changing of minds. What is left is a perfect combination of drama, adventure, intrigue, romance and comedy. If all that isn’t your cup of tea, no worries, the film times in at a bearable 96 minutes.