Here's a recent review for Vicky Christina Barcelona I did for Short & Sweet NYC- I was happy to see Penelope Cruz win a Best Supporting Actress last night at the Oscars, she was amazing in the film.
Sensual, candid, and intuitive, Vicky Christina Barcelona is one of the best Woody Allen films in years with a tremendous cast and an insightful focus on human behavior, passion, and love. Woody has an excellent understanding of the nature of relationships, or at the very least their failures, after dedicating his movie career to the topic (in addition to his own) and Vicky Christina Barcelona is a film that benefits from his comprehension. The neurosis that is trademark to Allen’s films feels more natural and honest this time around resulting in a direct confrontation with the audience’s fears and sense of security and dis-passion. The film follows two young American women with opposite ideals in the arena of love and romance Vicky (Rebecca Hall) and Christina (Scarlett Johansson), on a summer trip to Barcelona to stay with relatives Judy (Patricia Clarkson) and Mark (Kevin Dunn).
The two women are opposite extremes in terms of their expectations in a relationship and during their stay, they are confronted with a sexual proposition from a local artist, Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem). The women are split in their reactions but they travel with the artist spontaneously for the weekend. This is the point at which the film takes off and focuses on the nature of relationships and their success from an almost mathematical or chemical viewpoint. To make matters more interesting, Juan Antonio’s ex-wife Maria Elena (Penelope Cruz), who is the embodiment of passion, steps into the picture and tips the scales. One of the core themes of the film is in looking at the basic nature of people and their expectations about their relationships and their ability to work when paired with romantic partners.
The film focuses on the ever-fleeting dream of total abandon of the heart, which is all the more romantic when dealing with artists from Barcelona. The characters are well constructed and varied enough that nearly anyone can relate to one of them. The performances are also momentous with very natural and believable portrayals from Bardem, Cruz, and Scarlett Johansson. Patricia Clarkson was a bit distracting even while doing a wonderful job because she appeared so close to Mia Farrow.
In all, the film is perfect in detailing our imperfections and the reality of relationships. The city itself is an unbelievably gorgeous backdrop playing well into the film and the interactions between the characters will stay with you for years. This is a film that will make you re-evaluate yourself on some level, which can be a dangerous, but valuable proposition, and any film that has such a result is important. Without a doubt it is one of 2008’s best and is absolutely worth checking out.