Film Reviews

Vicky Christina Barcelona Woody Allen

Rating - 6/10

Woody Allen has maintained his movie-a-year productivity for so long past his last brilliant streak that any time he makes something that does not suck it feels like cause for celebration.  In my initial movie explorations, I didn't care for Woody.  His neurotic New York personae seemed less exotic and more self-absorbed than the European giants he aspired to.  Of course, Allen's work isn't to the taste of most 14-year-olds who've never had a girlfriend.  In the mid-90s, of course, I thought a movie wasn't a movie without bloody crime and glib pop culture referents.

As I've matured slightly over the years, I have come to find that, despite quite a bit of lousiness, Allen has contributed more classics than can reasonably be expected from a film-maker.  Bananas, Annie Hall, Stardust Memories, Zelig, Hannah and Her Sisters, Crimes and Misdemeanors, and Husbands and Wives...Allen has made a remarkably diverse number of great films.

Vicky Christina Barcelona is nowhere near the level of these landmarks, but it is a fond reminder of a time where one could expect a new Woody Allen movie to be at least, well, good.  The cast, which gratefully does not include Allen himself playing an inappropriate romantic lead, is handsome and manages to not make Woody's dialog sound too awkward.

Vicky and Christina are Rebecca Hall and Scarlett Johansson, American tourists and symbols of conservative pragmatism versus passionate chaos in romance.  Rebecca Hall is a real find, managing to smolder even when she's playing a caricature of the uptight, conventional New England career girl.  Johansson still looks technically great without possessing any actual charisma or performance ability, but her somnambulist vacuousness suits the role of the flighty aspiring artist.

By themselves, the movie would be quite boring.  Fortunately, Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz enlighten the movie effortlessly as dueling artists/lovers/temptations.  The reality that they are arrogantly simplified symbols of European Passion isn't as bothersome when they each do it so well.  On the flip side, Christopher Messina scores most of the actual laughs in the film as Doug, Vicky's cartoonishly bland and oblivious fiance.

The unhurried cinematography by Javier Aguirresarobe does justice to Barcelona, a refreshing setting after Woody seems to have grown bored with Manhatten.  Allen finds some mild insight in some big themes.  Yes, compared to previous triumphs, Vicky Christina Barcelona is a trifle.  It does, however, taste fine going down.