I’ve never been a huge fan of Woody Allen but I have seen a few of his films and mildly enjoyed them. When I heard he was to make a film in Spain I was intrigued and when I found out the film was based in Barcelona my favourite city in the world I knew I had to watch it.
Vicky Cristina Barcelona follows two American girls, named funnily enough Vicky and Cristina, while they spend a summer in Barcelona. Vicky (Rebecca Hall) is a cautious uptight intellectual who is engaged to a man from back home and has her life planned out. Cristina (Scarlett Johansson) is a free spirit who doesn’t want to be tied down.
One night while out at dinner the girl’s meet an artist in a restaurant. The artist Juan (Javier Bardem) then flies the girl’s on his private plane and manages to seduce both the girl’s. Cristina then ends up moving in with Juan and they live in domestic bliss until Juan’s ex wife Marina Elena (Penelope Cruz) shows up.
Throw in lots of deep discussions on love and life and extended camera shots showing the beauty of Barcelona and there you pretty much have it. The joy of this film doesn’t really lie in a lot of action but in watching the characters interact and the dialogue from Woody.
The acting is uniformly excellent across the board; English actress Rebecca Hall gets her big break on this film and really conveys the feeling of being trapped between the safety of her staid life and the yearning of wanting something more.
As an actress I normally don’t like Scarlett Johansson I just find her really monotone but in this film she is perfectly cast as the self absorbed Cristina who uses her sexuality to good effect.
Javier Bardem who usually plays more intense characters such as his Oscar winning performance in No country for old men exudes charm and it’s easy to see why all these smart attractive women would fall for him.
But and it’s a big but the real star of the movie is Penelope Cruz. She doesn’t appear until near the end of the film and is only onscreen for about 15 minutes but she completely blows everyone off the screen and hers is the performance that you will remember. She won the best supporting actress for this film and in my opinion it was well deserved, I’ve never before seen someone steal an entire film with such little screen time. Her Maria Elina goes runs the gambit of emotions in her short screen time from charming to crazy. The way she is filmed is amazing and she just exudes sex appeal and you cannot take your eyes off her. I was always a fan of hers from her Spanish films but this is the first English language film she has made that has managed to capture what it is that makes her so special.
I’d definitely recommend this film just on the strength of the performances and the chance to see Barcelona in its most beautiful light. At 1 hour and 30 minutes it is just the right length for this kind of talky movie to keep you engaged and not get bored.