Vicky Cristina Barcelona
7/10 (sneaky Woody Allen sighting, lame ending)
This is a great Woody Allen film for people that don’t like Woody Allen. I have only seen a handful of his films, so I’m no expert, but I can say for sure that this is my favorite. This is not saying much because I didn’t like any of the others, with the slight exception of “Annie Hall.” So why is this my favorite? It’s mostly because it doesn’t feel like a Woody Allen film. And this is because Woody Allen doesn’t insert himself or any other old man proxy (like Larry David in “Whatever Works”). Thus he avoids ruining it with his incessant neurotic ramblings. The change of scenery from NYC to Barcelona also made the film much better, giving it a certain freshness his others lack. To Allen´s credit (or perhaps to his Spanish cinematographer Javier Aguirresarobe´s), he really takes advantage of the gorgeous Spanish architecture in Barcelona and elsewhere.
The acting is good and at times great. Penelope Cruz is given a juicy porkchop of a role and doesn’t waste the opportunity. Scarlet Johannsen is Scarlet Johannsen, for better or worse. Javier Bardem is spectacular, giving the smoothest, sexiest male performance that you might ever see. Hell, I’d have let him take me to Oviedo, and I wasn’t gay the last time I checked.
The story is engaging and only drags toward the end. The problem is that while at first you don’t think there´s an Allen proxy in the film, and you’re really relieved and looking around at your viewing companion(s), smiling in amazement at your fantastic luck, you may be too self-satisfied to see Woody biding his time, and then sneaking up on you, stealthily, like a ninja, in the form of Rebecca Hall’s Vicky character.
There are two story arcs here. You have the fun and stupid Cristina who moves in with Bardem and his crazy lover Cruz, and then you have the neurotic, prudish, bourgeois Vicky/Woody, who sleeps with Bardem toward the beginning and then spends the rest of the film worrying about it and studying. Which story sounds more interesting? If you answered Vicky, you should leave now.
The problem is perfectly illustrated by the film poster above. Who appears with top billing? Bardem, Cruz, and Johannsen. The marketing people did that because they knew this was the most interesting part of the film. Yet the main character of the film is Rebecca Hall’s Vicky, and she only appears in small letters beneath the picture of all the fun people. This was done on purpose, because they knew that the main character sucked and they wanted you to see the film anyway. Ad-people are sneaky bastards like that. They have no conscience.
So the end of the film gets bogged down as Allen doesn’t seem to know how to finish it. The restless Cristina leaves the Spaniards, and Vicky stays with her douchebag husband to live unhappily ever after. Great ending, not. The first half of the film, however is more than worth the disappointment.
18 March 2010