My favorite thing about Woody Allen movies is that you are never quite sure what you will get. They are predictably unpredictable. What you can certainly count on is a film rooted in its characters. And these characters are usually a blend of Allenâ€™s warped, though at times true, perspective on human nature along with a touch of fantasy. â€œVicky Cristina Barcelonaâ€ is no exception. Once the movie started and I got into that Woody rhythm I was able to kick back and enjoy every aspect of his creation. The wit and cynicism is never better than when Allen tackles the world of sexual relationships.
The title sums up the premise of the movie. It is about two young women, Cristina (Scarlett Johansson) and Vicky (Rebecca Hall) who spend their summer in Barcelona. They are the closest of friends though no two women have been more different. Cristina is a free spirit who has no idea what she wants, only what she doesnâ€™t want. Her view on men and relationships changes with the moment and she is carefree in her pursuits. Vicky on the other hand is much more grounded in the relationship department and has a strict guideline that she follows. Vicky is engaged to be married and has her entire future plotted out. While in Barcelona they meet a local painter (Javier Bardem) who teaches them both about life, love and the pursuit of what they consider to be happiness.
This film moves like an enjoyable summer vacation. I found myself swept away by the architecture and sights of Barcelona. It set a tone for the film and allowed the characters to move along without much dialogue. In fact most of the story is told by an unseen narrator who, in the brilliant Allen style, adds an element of the theatrical that teeters on the brink of campy. It is hard to pull off but somehow Woody does it. It is as if you are being told a story while men and women act out the most important scenes. This helps pick up the pace of the film and oddly gives the actors more freedom of expression.
The story is the most important element and Allen delves into many aspects of the relationship structure. Though you may walk out scoffing at his view that marriage is a waste of energy and time, and it is impossible to find true lasting love and contentment, if you look deeper at what is being said, you will find that that is not his point at all. It is subtle but it is there. The fact that we all think that happiness is found in searching, when really, it is in the simplistic that we find the answer.
Bardem is fantastic in this film and proves that he is solid in any role and could easily be a leading man of the future. He is dark and sexy but with a depth of openness and compassion. His character needs that hint of vulnerability and Bardem allows that. PenÃ©lope Cruz costars as Bardemâ€™s crazed ex-wife. She completes a unique love triangle and I love Cruz in this role. She is fiery and full of artistic passion. Normally her roles are more reserved and it was cool to see her explore this inner fire.
Vicky Cristina Barcelona is rated PG-13 for mature thematic material involving sexuality, and smoking. For the nature of the content it is basically a mild piece. Woody does a great job of allowing emotion and narration to create the sexual charge and tension. It is artistic in its thinking and movement. He doesnâ€™t rely on sexual visualization or nudity to get his point across. He lets the story play out in his trusted cast. This takes the film from a raucous romp to a funny, insightful look at love and longing and the quirkiness that it plays on the human psyche. Granted there are some racy moments and the sexual tension between Cruz and Johansson might put a few people on guard. But these scenes are not gratuitous or shocking and are there only briefly to complete the story. Also, you have to understand and appreciate the Woody Allen style of film making. There is a rhythm and groove to it that some might find random and ungrounded. I am a huge fan and this fact helped my enjoyment of the film. I give Vicky Cristina Barcelona 4 out of 5 bumpy plane rides. It was a joy to watch and a light, fun, interesting look into the relationships of men and women.