Monday, August 18, 2008

Review: Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Vicky Cristina Barcelona. Dir: Woody Allen. Rebecca Hall, Scarlett Johnansson, Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz.

Vicky (Rebecca Hall) and Cristina (Scarlett Johansson) have the time and money to spend the summer in Barcelona, especially since they can stay with rich friends. Vicky is prim, proper, and knows what she wants: Boring old Doug who's already making a mint. Beautiful Cristina is a free spirit who only knows what she doesn't want. They like Barcelona because it was the home of Gaudi and Miro. Plus, they get to go to really hip gallery openings with their wealthy friends.

One day, they take sexy Spanish painter Javier Bardem up on his offer to fly to another town to look at a sculpture. He wants to sleep with both of them at the same time. Why not? Cristina thinks. Why? Vicky thinks. Cristina takes him up on it, but her ulcer acts up at a crucial moments and she vomits all over the bed. Oh well. At least Vicky is there to keep Javier company. He seduces her with his knowledge of Catalan and his appreciation of her appreciation of the flamenco guitar. She sleeps with him. 

This is a problem because now, Doug may not be enough. Plus, as Javier explains later, he and Cristina are better suited for each other anyway. Surely Vicky can see that. Anyway, Vicky loves Doug.  But he may not be enough. But she loves him. But he may not be enough. But she loves him. But he may not be enough. Worse, he doesn't appreciate the flamenco guitar or his incredible good fortune to be engaged to someone who does appreciate it. So, she's less than enthused when he comes to Barcelona to marry her. What's a girl to do? Go through with it.

Meanwhile, Cristina -- who consists entirely of long legs and thick lips -- picnics happily with Javier. She takes up photography. She admires his painting. All is bliss until Penelope Cruz, Javier's loony ex-wife, shows up. She doesn't trust Cristina but she likes listening to Cristina and Javier make love. Eventually, the pair -- Cristina and Penelope -- bond over Cristina's artistic commitment to photography and take a liking to each other. Penelope teaches Cristina much about photography. The two of them make out in the dark room. Doug is shocked but titillated. Vicky is really, really tired of the categorical imperative.

Vicky walks in on her rich friend making out with her husband's business partner. (Barcelona is apparently Europe's version of the back seat of a car.) It turns out that the rich friend loves her husband but isn't in love with him, the lifestyle of the rich and famous being grossly inadequate and all. She doesn't want Vicky to repeat her mistake. She goads Vicky into meeting Javier, who would like to nail Vicky one last time before she and Doug return to New York. I wouldn't come between a man and his wife, Javier explains as he tries to come between Vicky and Doug. Vicky frets. You know you want to, says Javier. Vicky frets some more. (By this point in the movie, Rebecca Hall has gotten really good at fretting.) She can't go through with it.

Cristina by now is tired of it all (as are we). All she knows is that she wants a love that is "counterintuitive," and a threesome with Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz isn't that. Otherwise, she still doesn't know what she wants, but does know that picnics with Javier and make-out sessions with Penelope are what she doesn't want. Everyone goes back to New York to get on with their lives.

Once upon a time, Woody Allen made funny, provocative romantic comedies that affectionately satirized the intelligentsia. It's hard to figure out what he has in mind with Vicky Cristina Barcelona. He raises plenty of points about art and love and seems to want to go somewhere with them, but the movie has the content of a caffeine-free diet Coke. VCB crossbreeds Interiors with A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy (which had little comedy and less sex) and produces the weakest and most pretentious elements of both. Plus, it's dull. 

Watch Manhattan instead: It covers much of the same ground with a better cast, a better script, and an unmatched feel for location. It doesn't have Scarlett and Penelope making out in a dark room, but you can't have everything. We only see a few seconds of that anyway...

Is this some kind of joke? (And stop the presses: Street vendors in New York sell pirated goods. I'm calling off my trip)...

Eight Republican senators have decided to skip their party's convention and two more are on their way...

Here's a good analysis of the diplomacy (or lack thereof) leading up to the Russian invasion of Georgia. A quibble over this line, though: "It is also the story of how both Democrats and Republicans have misread Russia’s determination to dominate its traditional sphere of influence." If you read the story, Democrats hardly deserve equal billing. (For that matter, neither do the Republicans.) The story deals with how an Administration that happens to be Republican misunderstood and inadvertently exacerbated an already delicate situation. But party politics play no actual role. This is yet another example of the MSM bending over backwards to provide "balance" where there is none...

2 comments:

Scrumpy's Baker said...

Great review. I think I'll skip the movie and just go to Barcelona one of these days.

Rain said...

What a funny review. I had been interested in seeing this film but figured it'd have to wait for DVD. Maybe it'll be better that way. I mean just for Javier Bardem if nothing else :) I actually wrote about it for a future blog having not seen it but just read about it as it fit into a topic on monogamy. I can't knock off that whole section of my blog but should link to your review about it :)