Friday, January 23, 2009

"Vicky Christina Barcelona"

Title: “Vicky Christina Barcelona
Running time: 96 minutes
Genre: comedy, drama
Rated: PG-13
Cast: Scarlett Johansson, Rebecca Hall, Javier Bardem, Penélope Cruz, Chris Messina, Patricia Clarkson, Kevin Dunn
Director: Woody Allen

Woody Allen always manages to stir some kind of a commotion, whether it is about his work or personal life. Everything he does seems something quite out of the ordinary. I am not fully acquainted with his work, but I do know that he likes neurotic and quirky. His newest “Vicky Christina Barcelona” introduces love to new geometrical figures in quite an amusing way.

Vicky [Rebecca Hall] and Christina [Scarlet Johansson] decide to spend a magical summer in Barcelona. Even though both women agree on most things in life, when it comes to love they are complete opposites as stated by the narrator, Allen himself. Vicky has the dictionary definition of love written down and will soon marry her best choice to spend her life with. Christina on the other hand is clueless about her perfect relationship, but knows what she doesn’t want. One Juan Antonio [Javier Bardem] and a weekend in Oviedo later Vicky is unsure about her choices in love and life, while Christina engages in a peculiar relationship with Juan Antonio and his ex-wife Maria Elena [Penelope Cruz]. By the end of the summer Vicky and Christina return to the USA with some interesting experience, but initially where they began.

Genre wise “Vicky Christina Barcelona” is a love comedy ah-la Wooden Allan and yet an interesting survey of the human heart. The most distinguishable quality “Vicky Christina Barcelona” has is the narration. On one hand it kind of takes away the element of surprise, sharing what comes up and goes wrong and it also grinds everything seen into a consumable summary for the viewers, but on the other hand it’s quirky and humorous, it lightens up the mood and creates this small fairy tale atmosphere. The humor itself is intellectual without relying on music cues, bland physical comedy or the usual predictable acts. What the movie relies on is the actor’s performance in terms of body language and dialogue.

What however hooked me were the unconventional heart conditions. I mean in real life we never really know what we want, because the heart rarely stays at one place for too long. All great tragedies in life and on the screen possibly involve a love triangle and the possibility to love and adore more than one person. I like how different shades of love the hearts needs to sustain itself and in order for its bearer to prosper, as shown by Javier Bardem. Love is like alchemy and you need more ingredients to achieve its purest form. But who is able to find the real recipe and expose love’s true nature.

If you look closely at the characters, you will see that the great discovery of love lies within the artists. Bardem and Cruz are artists, while Johansson is a novice photographer. All free spirits, all emotional in different ways than the ordinary people with their planning and daily routines. Without any attempt to sound like an expert on the topic, I think what Allen is trying to point is that love is not a planned and practical commodity that once met a certain set of standards can make you happy for the rest of your life. That’s just not how it rolls.

As a conclusion, from start to finish “Vicky Christina Barcelona” is an enchanting movie with class performance. Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem are chameleons and that is all that needs to be said. Rebecca Hall was a joy to watch fidget and stammer around, when things took interesting turns. And well Johansson is a different story for me personally, but nevertheless contributed her share to the movie as well. I definitely recommend this flick to anyone, who enjoys the genre.


tanabata said...

I saw this on the plane on our way back to Japan, and quite enjoyed it. I really like Javier Bardem. He's been great in whatever I've seen him in.

daydream said...

True, true. I even liked his performance in "No Country for Old Men", even though the movie wasn't one of my particular favorites as a whole and after I understood the genius behind it.

I liked "VCB" because it managed to keep me for 2 hours oblivious to anything else.

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