Sunday, August 31, 2008

Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008)

In Woody Allen's new movie, "Vicky Cristina Barcelona," two sexy young Americans, Vicky & Cristina (Rebecca Hall & Scarlett Johansson), spend their Summer vacation in Spain, and find themselves both attracted to the same man, a serious painter named Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem). Vicky is grounded and has a fiancé and future laid out in front of her. Cristina is free wheeling, aimless, and chronically unsatisfied.

When Juan Antonio approaches the two of them and matter-of-factly lays out his intentions, Cristina is all aboard, but Vicky is offended by his forwardness. After the two of them spend a weekend with Juan Antonio, Vicky finds herself regretfully seduced by him, & Cristina ends up with food poisoning.

Vicky goes back to her fiancé and tries to move on with her life, but finds that the grass is always greener on the other side. Meanwhile, Cristina enters into a relationship with Juan Antonio, only to discover that his affection for his chaotic ex-wife (Penelope Cruz) is still hanging around, and so is she.

So for starters, I like Woody Allen. A friend of mine noted not too long ago that I've been pretty consistent in seeing Woody's new movies in theaters. That being said, I thought "Match Point" was a decent movie made better by a strong 3rd act, and I still think that Woody's last Great movie was 1999's "Sweet and Lowdown." Still, it seems that whenever he puts out a new movie, there's some segment of the critical population that calls it a "return to form." That phrase is being thrown around more than ever concerning "Vicky Cristina."

Here's what I think of it. I think that it's very pretty to look at it (both geographically and the lead actors/actresses). I think that it's got a nice score that not only contributes to the brisk pacing, but also underscores the dark comedy of the film. I think that it has familiar themes, but that they are handled in a mature, skillful way. I think Rebecca Hall and Penelope Cruz are both very good in a movie generally filled with good performances. And most of all, I think that it's pretty knowledgeable, when it comes to the nature of human beings.

My personal dissatisfaction with the film stems from the fact that I found it to be instantly forgettable. I walked out of the theater and had a brief conversation with my date about it, and I haven't really thought about it since. It feels like an excellent exercise in craftsmanship that for whatever reason did not resonate with me.

I think perhaps, I'm tired of Woody writing films for younger actors. I think I would prefer to see a film written about character's closer to his age. There has always been a strong autobiographical element to his films, and a running theme of mortality-anxiety. What better time in his life is there to reflect on that theme then now?

"Vicky Cristina Barcelona" screened at an AMC theater in Chicago, Ill on 8/20/08

1 comment:

JAL said...

I don't think Woody sets out to write films for younger actors in that, I think the themes of the majority of his stories are not age specific and he casts appropriately for the story. I also doubt that Woody is an "agenda writer". I suspect he lets the story take it's own course and he just follows it. He's 73 and easily one of the most prolific and talented artists to grace the planet.