Thursday, January 01, 2009

Movie Review: Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008)

Vicky Cristina Barcelona

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Woody Allen is back in fine form with his latest offering Vicky Cristina Barcelona.

Vicky (Rebecca Hall) and Cristina (Scarlett Johansson) are opposites in personality. They are spending a summer in Barcelona when Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem) approaches them and brazenly invites them to spend the weekend with him sightseeing and lovemaking. Vicky is attracted by the idea and Vicky unwilling goes alone. They travel to Oviedo aboard Juan's private plane and thus begins a complicated set of relationships that include Juan's ex-wife (Penelope Cruz).

The above summary is very minimal because Vicky Cristina Barcelona is better seen without knowing too much about what is coming. Woody Allen has created a superbly intricate meditation on love that, in 96 minutes, explores an incredible range of ideas, experiences, and questions. Like most of Woody Allen's movies, the emphasis is on dialogue — so watching the story requires careful listening. It is witty, philosophical, but earthy and what each character says fits nicely with their well-developed characterisations.

The plot is intriguing and takes unexpected turns and the resolution at the end of the story provides a lot to think about as you leave the cinema. The photography is superb. Apparently the city of Barcelona offered to pick up the tab for the production costs if the film was made there — and it is a visual feast.

Johansson and Bardem are brilliant in their roles — Woody Allen wrote the parts specifically Johansson and Bardem in mind — representing their different personalities will enormous skill. And Penelope Cruz is wonderfully wicked as the mad ex-wife. Vicky Cristina Barcelona has been nominated for four Golden Globe Awards.

Vicky Cristina Barcelona may not be the best Woody Allen film he's produced; but it is great to sit through an entertaining, witty, story that has some depth and thought-provoking things to say. Don't expect this movie to give you answers about love — but enjoy thinking about the questions it raises. Most important may be the difference between romance and love. Vicky Cristina Barcelona is a real gem.

My Rating: **** (out of 5)

A review that rates it similar to me ...

'Allen can be literal-minded about his thematic polarities, but, in this movie, he has put actors with first-class temperament on the screen, and his writing is both crisp and ambivalent: he works everything out with a stringent thoroughness that still allows room for surprise.' – David Denby/The New Yorker

Positive Review

'The film's freedom and control, its inspiration and focus, announce it as the work of a confident and mature artist.' – Mick LaSalle/San Francisco Chronicler

Negative Review

'Watching Allen fart out a story when he has no characters is always painful, as people are defined through clumsy expository dialogue and ranked according to their cultural accomplishments. But the script here is lazy even by his standards.' – J R Jones/Chicago Reader

Content Advice

Mature thematic material involving sexuality, and smoking


USA: PG-13

And there's more ...

Australia **** (0ut of 5)

A sweeping epic that is entertaining, humorous, and probably one of the best roles Nicole Kidman has performed. Provides great insight into Australian history and culture. A great movie!

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button ***1/2 (out of 5)

Benjamin Button is born old and grows younger as everyone around him grows older. Intriguing premise. Too long. But worth a look.

The Day the Earth Stood Still **** (out of 5)

A lot of people didn't like this movie. I did. An entertaining science fiction about an alien who visits earth to rescue it from the environmental destruction being caused by humans. Can he be persuaded that humans will change and decide not to destroy them?

Dracula ***1/2 (out of 5)

A lavish retelling of the Dracula legend based on Bram Stoker's book. Focuses more on Dracula's need for love than blood, but still pretty gruesome. Has some hard to watch moments. Very popular when it was in the cinemas. (DVD)

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