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VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA, 2008
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VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA MOVIE POSTER
VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA
Movie Review

Directed by Woody Allen
Starring Scarlett Johansson, Rebecca Hall, Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz, Patricia Clarkson
Review by Eli Manning



SYNOPSIS:

Two girlfriends on a summer holiday in Spain become enamored with the same painter, unaware that his ex-wife, with whom he has a tempestuous relationship, is about to re-enter the picture.

REVIEW:

Woody Allen is back better than in a long time in Vicky Christina Barcelona. A film about expressing your inner emotions and feelings to the world and how most people like and need to do that with a sexual partner. Sometimes though that's just too scary and those emotions someone is dying to express get lost in the subconscious.

In many ways this is a tribute film to famed Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar (All About My Mother, Talk to Her) where an outside voice-over leads the film to tell us the exposition so we can get right to the unique love stories of the characters. Allen uses the Spanish filmmaking template except the lead characters are American and gives us his best film in years. You sort of wished he did this a long time ago.

This would be considered a romantic comedy but it's so much more than that. Vicky Cristina Barcelona is a full circle story where the characters learn a lot, do a lot, have some sex and really end up where they started. Some are better off because of it as others are not. Everyone in the film makes many choices but it's also life and circumstance that dictates where you end up most times. A common theme in Woody Allen films.

Using the beautiful Barcelona, Spain as its backdrop Vicky Christina Barcelona centers on realist/sensible Vicky (Rebecca Hall) who insists that she knows what she wants and the idealist/dreamy Cristina (Scarlett Johansson) who does not but knows what she doesn't want. The two have traveled to Barcelona so that Vicky can work on her masters in Catalan culture, while Cristina plays her foil. The real education doesn't begin until they meet painter Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem), who begins the conflict free sexual triangle (that turns into another sexual triangle at the midpoint of the film).

Javier Bardem turns a cliché character of the Latin artist/lover who attacks both women and canvases with bold strokes into a three dimensional human being with heart and emotion. His character is the key to Vicky Cristina Barcelona as we must believe that this is a man who truly cares. Bardem pulls it off and we now understand that this is a man with a big future and not just a one-hit acting wonder (Oscar Winner - No Country for Old Men).

This is an attempt at a coming of age story for the two female leads. They start the film as stereotypical girls who are looking for life and they end the film as woman. And there is a cost to that stage. Both girls really expected more out of life but are left wondering if this is really as high they will go. They both have much to give and express to the world but really don't trust it as much as they thought. Vicky Cristina Barcelona tries to tell us that when anyone starts to create, ciaos occurs and life gets too complicated. So you have to choose to take the complications or take the simplicity and live a common life.

Woody Allen's evolution of a filmmaker is to take his past male dominated glass half empty characters and now make them females. The only thing that remains the same is that the male/female relationships are always May/December romances without any talk Vicky Cristina Barcelona or explanation of the fact. This is disturbing as Allen still keeps his male fantasies intact. Javier Bardem is a man in his 40's sleeping with woman in their early 20's. That's fine if they make this part of the story, but they treat this as an everyday life occurance. Vicky Christina Barcelona is a good film but not a great film. I think many would might think this movie better than it is because we know who the director is and are just happy that he didn't make another crappy film. The lead females have an arc but it's not as great or as far as it can be.

Allen doesn't go all the way with this script. Not as far as he used to go where he mixed both laughter and sadness into maddening emotion. This film doesn't have enough sadness as Allen let his characters off too easily.

3 stars out of 4!

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