Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Woody Allen's Vicky Cristina Barcelona is...

I went to see Vicky Cristina Barcelona last Monday. I have been a long time fan of Woody Allen movies. You might say I have an appreciation for babbling, neurosis, and hidden humor in the awkward moments of unraveling or attempting to be something only to discover (with witnesses) that you are a foibled version of your best projected self.Some how, in all of his movies love and lust and the pursuit of oneself is always sad, tragic and funny all while being smart. This movie was all of those things.

Set in beautiful Barcelona, two close friends Vicky (Rebecca Hall) and Cristina (Scarlett Johansson) go on holiday for the summer. Early in the trip they discover Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem) as an infamous painter, known in the socialite scenes for his torrid failed marriage to Maria Elena(Penelope Cruz). The story takes off on its tumultuous tumbling through the curiosity and push-pull flow of new love, infatuation, and obsession after Juan Antonio proposes a weekend trip to both the girls to see a painting.

He has an aloof and passive seduction that is penetrating. He seems to want the girls very much, but in the same instant could be unfazed by their refusal. At one point he makes a strong argument with a soft voice...(I'm paraphrasing, here): "Life is long, and dull and painful, why not enjoy each other's company with good wine, good food, and good sex?" In that very moment, as a woman, the ideal of it doesn't seem as insane when coming from his sexy lips with such brazen candor and genuine unfiltered desire.

Needless to say the girls accompany him on a whim and the characters build through small scenes that carry much to identify with. Vicky is a grad student who is very New York-astute. She is practical and unemotional. She has a plan, a fiance and good sense of the necessities of relationships rather than the romantic notion of love. Cristina, in stark contrast, is also a student interested in film and and photography. She doesn't like staying in one place for too long, and by her own confession: "I don't know what I want, I just know what I don't want". Her character reminded me of myself at 19 or 20. Taking yourself too seriously, using your sexuality for gain, but never truly knowing what to do with the attention you acquire, therefore, abruptly changing direction to start anew.
Juan Antonio is remarkably hot. I think I blushed in some of the early scenes. His eyes are so open and attentive, yet he carries an aire of calm and control at all times. He is artistic and passionate, but also extremely forthcoming. He woos Vicky with a Spanish guitar player and wine and a meeting with his father, quickly letting her go from his mind due to her imminent future of marriage. Soon, he is in a full live-in relationship with Cristina (who knows nothing of the encounter that her best friend and boyfriend had that one night.). Maria-Elena returns to his house after an emotional breakdown and is taken in by both Cristina and Juan-Antonio. Thus, making the three-part relationship transparent and intriguing. Not in a sexual way, per say, but in the very human and vulnerable situations all lovers struggle with. The "Ex-factor" is dealt with in full-force and honesty. There is an experiment with surrender.

The laughs are consistent but slightly veiled with sadness. All parties in this movie are yearning for something more, wanting to feel with fury. Maria-Elena says: "Only unfulfilled love can be romantic." At first blush, it sounds ridiculous, but as it soaks in, I begin to agree on so many levels. What cannot be, is often what drives passion, desire and idealism....if it has not been proven otherwise...it remains whatever you want it to be.
Penelope Cruz comes into the film in the late stages, fiery and beautifully crafted. She is sullen and intense. Hard and incredibly soft. She lives up to the legend the Juan-Antonio makes of her. Again, his sensitivity to women and hysteria is something I have never seen in life or film before. He accepts tirades and emotions from women as something that "happens" and he manages them with compassion and strength. It is almost something I cannot articulate, you can only feel it (as a woman) when you see it.


I won't give away the major plot twists, but the stand out performers to me are Javier Bardem and his steamy cool and Rebecca Hall in her pinned-up, fight against her own romanticism vs. realism. There were a few scenes that explore the inevitable human nature of misunderstandings and Javier Bardem's character speaks so honestly it is shocking, but more refreshing than the cool blue and stone of the Spanish scenery behind them. He holds nothing back, and plays no games. He speaks directly and even his painful words come out bouncy because his intentions are to communicate, not to hurt. (oh....I would love a Spaniard).


The narrator is a bit annoying at times, sounding like a young Woody Allen. Booby Johansson gets on my nerves with her mimicking of Woody himself, with the over-turned limp palms and the inflection of her voice during her babbling, stuttering whiny scenes at times.

If you are a Woody Allen fan, see it. If you are not, be warned that it might not be your cup of tea, but the acting, story and sardonic tone is worth the ten dollars. I personally think Woody has evolved into a place that is tragically baring the sad truths of love and it's life long quest. I'd say one of his best.

Love is always fleeting. Romance is a fragile idea we are capable of destroying as quickly as we create it, and three is too many for me.

1 comment:

T said...

I am DYING to see this. Thanks for the great review!!