Vicky Cristina Barcelona Movie Review
A hysterically, bitter-sweet, romantic comedy that correctly depicts the passion & heat of Spanish citizens & the romantic setting of the Iberian peninsula.
Genre: Comedy / Drama / Romance
Director: Woody Allen
Cast: Rebecca Hall, Scarlett Johansson, Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz, Patricia Clarkson, Chris Messina, Pablo Schreiber & Josep Maria Doménech.
Run Time: 97 min.
US Release: 15 August 2008
UK Release: 21 October 2008
German Release: 04 December 2008
Happy post-Valentine's Day everyone, I do hope you had a nice romantic evening with your loved ones. I actually had planned to release this review the week before V-day, however, due to the holidays, missed the opportunity. As such, I am including it in today’s ‘Throwback Thursday’ review. Woody Allen is among the few who do understand the genre, coming up with smart innovations, to not make his movies feel repetitive. Vicky Cristina Barcelona is no different, setting the location as a trigger for situations to unfold. Lean back, grab a plate of cheese together with some wine, to accompany my review!
— WARNING, THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS! —
Best friends Vicky and Cristina visit the Spanish city of Barcelona, for the summer. Vicky is more traditional in her approach to love, engaged with the reliable Doug. Cristina, on the other hand, is more adventurous, not knowing what she wants from life. When both meet the celebrated artist Juan Antonio, Vicky is careful, not willing to dive into a sexual adventure being committed to her fiance. Cristina, however, is immediately smitten by the Spanish painter's free-spirited approach to romance.
When Juan Antonio’s ex-wife Maria Elena appears on the scene, situations get messy, with emotions of jealousy rising. A hilarious sexual adventure unfolds, with unexpected consequences.
Allen, who of course wrote the script for his rom-com himself, approached the plot like a stage play, including a narrator plus picturesque scenes of the Catalan capital, as the perfect set. The Manhattan-born director keeps expanding his exploration of Europe with this entry, fleshing out the nuances and facades of Barcelona, turning it into a character of itself. Most of the Spanish-based characters show the same passion, fire, as well as uninhibited temperament, which clashes with more traditional American values.
The core of the story contains a fine perception of the complexities of love, life, and oneself. However, while these are typical tropes of the regisseur’s films, the topics are given an overhaul, by tying them up directly to the Spanish way of life, with its architecture, food, just like the fiery ambiance. It also contains a good portion of eccentric humour, especially at the end of the third act, which involves a gun. With all the praise given, the screenplay does have one minor flaw; as entertaining as it is, Vicky Cristina Barcelona is a disposable premise.
The use of a narrator intensifies the feeling of watching a theatre play or fairytale. Dialogues are sophisticated, making for interesting philosophical conversations about life, love, art, or even culinary desires. The slight cynical notes in some of the comments, spice up the humour.
British actress Rebecca Hall gives a magnificent performance as Vicky, one of the four leads. She is the reason the two friends visit the city of Barcelona during the summer, hoping to finish her education in ‘Catalan studies’. Hall nails the American accent, while her character herself, is representative of American prudishness, especially when it comes to her fiance, who is sexually close-minded. Vicky is responsible, with goals in life, or so she thought. As their vacation in Barcelona moves on, she casts some doubts about the decisions she made, opening her up to other possibilities.
Scarlett Johansson plays Cristina, Vicky’s best friend who tags along at the last minute. Cristina is the complete opposite of her friend, being impulsive, adventurous, just like less prude when it comes to sexual adventures. However, she is also restless, unable to accept what she has, forcing her to finally run away from it. She is constantly doubting herself, though Juan Antonio and Maria Elena manage to give her a little bit of direction.
Javier Bardem portrays the free-minded Catalan artist Juan Antonio, who completed a messy divorce from his ex-wife. He is passionately impulsive, all clichéd tropes of Spaniards, yet true ones. His words are seductive, his artistic presence is attractive. Juan Antonio is independent, free from convention.
Penelope Cruz absolutely steals the show, as Juan Antonio’s crazed ex-wife Maria Elena. A skilled artist herself, her poetic reason as to what makes her love for Juan Antonio so romantically pure, is the fact that both can’t live with one another.
Technically, the composition plus framing always set Spanish culture in its focus. At times, it looks more like an advertisement, selling a summer vacation in the Catalan capital, however, the topics of life quality, including love, are always present. Soft, as well as, whip pans are used to infuse tranquil scenes with energy, transits to the next scene or simply to enlarge the settings of this world. The picture is tinted in a golden hue, representative of the sunny climate and warm, fiery temperament of the Spanish people. Editing-wise, a few split screens are implemented to underline the different personalities between characters.
The complete movie was filmed in Barcelona, Avilés and Oviedo, using the original surroundings as the setting. The wardrobe is summery, light, typical touristic fashion of the late 2000s, representative of Vickie’s or Cristina’s personality. In contrast, Maria Elena and Juan Antonio’s artistic souls are represented by more free-spirited, bohemian attire.
The score is representative of the setting, using a lot of Spanish guitar tunes. The main musical theme “Barcelona”, performed by the small band “Giulia y los Tellarini” reflects the theme of searching for love.
Verdict: Woody Allen’s feel-good rom-com was a return to form for the director. This Spanish vacation flick contains a very perceptive premise, exploring the intricate complexities of human relationships, not simply through different personalities but also through the clash of cultures. The Catalan capital is a character of itself, incarnated by the Spanish actors Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz. Spicing up the story is the inclusion of humour, plus a slightly bittersweet note at the end. The dialogues are sophisticated, deepening philosophical topics. The complete cast has exceptional chemistry with each other. This is especially true of Scarlett Johansson, Javier Bardem, and a magnificent Penelope Cruz, who steals the spotlight with her performance. Finally, the cinematography makes use of simple editing tricks, as well as enveloping the imagery in a warm, golden tint. Vicky Cristina Barcelona simply tells life as it is, deserving an 8.0 out of 10.
So, what is your take on Woody Allen’s romantic vacation trip to northern Spain? Do you agree with my review? Thank you for reading 6 please consider subscribing!