||Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance
by: Woody Allen
Starring: Javier Bardem, Patricia Clarkson, Penelope Cruz, Scarlett Johansson, Rebecca Hall, Chris Medina, Kevin Dunn
Released by: The Weinstein Company
Short: Woody Allen's best film in years features an astonishing performance by Penelope Cruz.
Lust, Love, and Craziness in Barcelona
Mixed-Up Romance Fuels Woody Allen's Best Film in Years
For many moviegoers, director-writer Woody Allen seems to have lost his way in recent years, making a series of less-than-memorable films like Scoop, Melinda and Melinda, and Cassandra’s Dream. That fact makes Vicky Cristina Barcelona all the more enjoyable, as the master returns to the form that characterized his work in the '70s and '80s.
The four protagonists—Javier Bardem, Scarlett Johansson, Rebecca Hall, and the absolutely sublime Penelope Cruz—find their lives intertwined one fateful summer in Barcelona. That gorgeous city serves as a sort of fifth character, too, and makes the movie worth seeing simply as a travelogue.
It is the interpersonal stories that are so fascinatingly funny in the film, as American tourists Vicky (Rebecca Hall) and Cristina (Scarlett Johansson) arrive in Barcelona to spend the summer. They quickly encounter Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem, who is swooningly handsome in this role), a famous local painter who propositions them both with a threesome upon their first meeting.
Sex, love, and impossible yearning ensue, and when Juan Antonio's nutty artist ex-wife (Penelope Cruz) turns up, passionate insanity breaks out all over the place. There's a touch of lesbian love, plenty of marital infidelity, and comic situations abounding as the summer plays out.
Vicky Cristina Barcelona is full of clever, spot-on dialogue about life, love, art, neurosis, and passion, all offered up by a troupe of fine actors, with Penelope Cruz and Rebecca Hall leading the pack. Both are feeling the buzz already around Tinseltown, with early predictions of Oscar nominations being bandied about. And while Woody Allen does not act in this film, his unmistakable stamp is all over it in a purely positive way. It's a real delight to watch this comic, yet ultimately sad story play out.
Reviewed by Jenny Peters