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Vicky Cristina Barcelona: Neurotic Mixed With Beautiful

I'd probably say I'm a medium-sized fan of Woody Allen. If I were ordering a dose of Woody Allen at Starbucks, I'd probably get it in a grande cup. His nebbishy dialogue style grates on my nerves after too long, and some of his movies remind me of me at my most neurotic, which is tiring. Vicky Cristina Barcelona is more of the same Allenistic stuff we've grown to expect, but it's also given a refreshing jolt from the (mostly) talented and entirely beautiful cast. There's a nice balance of overthinky anxiety, wacky storyline, and attractive people to make this Woody Allen film a medium-sized, easy-to-drink treat.

The movie is narrated as though someone is reading us a story, and the detached commentary provides occasional insights into the thoughts and feelings of the protagonists, which I appreciated in this case. Vicky (Rebecca Hall) and Cristina (Scarlett Johansson) are girlfriends who set off for a Summer in Barcelona. They soon befriend a famous painter, Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem), who is known for his volatile relationship with his ex-wife, Maria Elena (Penelope Cruz).

Cristina becomes Juan Antonio's paramour, but before too long, Vicky finds herself drawn to him as well, despite her engagement to the wealthy, steady Doug (Chris Messina). The love triangle becomes a square when the emotionally unstable Maria Elena returns to live in Juan Antonio's house, which he now shares with Cristina. The tangled web gets messier — and funnier — as the Summer goes on. For more of my thoughts on all of this,


It's easy to relax into this Summer-in-Spain atmosphere, and the city lends a softer, friendlier vibe to the film than the usual fast-paced craziness of New York City, Allen's frequent location of choice. Bardem and Cruz are two of the hottest human beings ever, in my opinion, and both are superb as the love-crazed, passionate artists forever enmeshed in a love/hate, push-pull relationship. Even if they weren't superb, I would love watching them (I mean, look at this photo of Penelope Cruz! Look at it!).

Using Spanish actors in a Spanish setting (as opposed to solely focusing on the Americans' experiences abroad) was wise, and these two often carry some of the wackier scenes simply because they are so comfortable in the setting. They're less easy with some of the anxious, uniquely Woody Allen-y dialogue, but frankly, so is Johansson. For all that talk of her being a "muse," she doesn't do very well with Allen's material. The one who really and truly does is Rebecca Hall, playing a character who thinks so much and so intensely about everything, she has a hard time just relaxing and being content. Sound like anyone else we could name? It's like she was born to star in a Woody Allen film, and I hope we get to see her in more of them.

Photos courtesy of The Weinstein Company

Join The Conversation
lazybones101 lazybones101 8 years
After everything everyone has written I want to see this movie. Javier was so freaky in No Country For Old Men.
lexichloe lexichloe 8 years
I was going to say I'd never watch this until I saw Javier's name. I might give it a chance. I still find it extremely creepy that Allen is obsessed w/ SJ.
californiagirlx7 californiagirlx7 8 years
I actually want to see this movie and I am not even a big Woody Allen fan. I have only seen one of his films (Match Point), which didn't impress me even though most people seemed to love it. I know, I know, I need to watch Annie Hall... ;)
nancita nancita 8 years
I could not agree more...with pretty much everything you said. I don't mind Scarlett, but I just can't buy her in the neurotic Woody Allen role. But I did love how different the style of dialogue was between the Spaniards and between the Americans.
bibliophile bibliophile 8 years
Ah, after I re-read your review, I completely see what you mean, Buzz. Pene and Javier make such a charismatic duo that I wouldn't be surprised if I found their sleeping habits fascinating!
harmonyfrance harmonyfrance 8 years
mary I think she's completely over-rated. She does the same thing in every film and it's so boring. UGH. This movie sounds really interesting though. I may check it out. Thanks buzz. :)
ehadams ehadams 8 years
Good review...I think I will rent it. Is Javier the luckiest guy ever for getting three gorgeous women in this movie or what?? Also your review made me want Starbucks. Now I have to go downstairs and get some coffee. Bad Buzz!
Entertainment Entertainment 8 years
bibliophile — Yeah, that's why I say it's a "(mostly) talented cast" and that Scarlett doesn't do well with this material — I definitely think she was the weakest link in this movie! Bardem/Cruz, however...I would watch sleep...but not in the creepy way...not really.
bibliophile bibliophile 8 years
Mary_Sofi, you're not the only one! Scarlett is terribly overrated as an actress and she's definitley the weakest link in an otherwise superb ensemble cast (so I disagree with you there, Buzz--I thought Javier and Penelope were fantastic!). Rebecca Hall's performance, in particular, stands out to me, and I hope we see a little more of her and a little less Scarlett in future.
ilanac13 ilanac13 8 years
i've become a fan of allen movies lately and i have to say that definitely more interested in what he's done with scar jo than anything in the past. i've heard great things about VCB and i can't wait to make my way to the theater to check it out. (although i don't know if i'll have success with my man) sometimes you come to enjoy and expect the tone that's always set in his films but i've heard that this one kind of branches out a bit and is suprisingly quirkier/funnier than others.
elle-j elle-j 8 years
I thought the movie was enjoyable, but i found myself annoyed at times through out. Scarlett was definitely the weakest link, in my opinion.
Mary_Sofi Mary_Sofi 8 years
Am I the only one who thinks Scarlett Johansson is overrated?
Linda-McP Linda-McP 8 years
Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem are just wonderful in this film. Loved the review, Buzz!
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