Directed by: Woody Allen
Premise: A pair of American tourists (Scarlett Johansson and Rebecca Hall) fall for a carefree Spanish painter (Javier Bardem) who has an intense love-hate relationship with his estranged wife (Penélope Cruz).
What Works: Vicky Cristina Barcelona questions what it means to lead a normal romantic relationship as the two women, one a realist and the other an idealist, find their love lives turned upside down. The questions it raises are interesting and the film manages to avoid blatant predictability by engaging the audience with some interesting characters. All of the performances are solid but the one that really leaves an impression is Penélope Cruz as a woman who is at least bi-polar if not a borderline psychotic. In a very limited amount of screen time, Cruz delivers a performance that elevates the rest of the picture.
What Doesn’t: The characters, themes, and scenarios of Vicky Cristina Barcelona are familiar and rather cliché such as the practical career woman who is swept off of her feet by an impulsive bohemian male or the starry eyed idealist who finds limits to her ideas of free love. The familiar elements are done well, but they are still very recognizable. The film uses voice over throughout the picture to narrate the background information. It is largely unnecessary expository information and the film would be stronger without it.
DVD extras: None.
Bottom Line: Vicky Cristina Barcelona is a good effort by writer and director Woody Allen and even though it works through some familiar scenarios the solid acting and the swift pace of the story keep the film upbeat and fun.
Episode: #228 (February 22, 2009)