Posted by: Dr P | February 17, 2009

Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Woody Allen’s latest tale is a cunning weave of relationship satire, love, longing, desperation, futility and Bohemia. It is has what I like to call a Ronseal Woodstain air about it. The film follows the tale of Vicky and Cristina on a trip to Barcelona, hence the name. That’s right – exactly what it says on the film tin.

The premise is fairly simple. Cristina (the utterly lovely Scarlett Johansson) and Vicky (the utterly not Rebecca Hall) are visiting friends in Barcelona. Over dinner one night they are approached by Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem), a fre spirited artist who immediately invites them to spend a weekend away with him where – and this is a corker of a pick-up line I have to say “I mean, I’ll show you around the city, and we’ll eat well. We’ll drink good wine. We’ll make love”. Lads, give that a whirl the next time you’re out in Sol Viva and see what happens!

Despite the soon-to-be-married Vicky’s outrage, free-as-a-lark Cristina accepts and before we know it, the lasses are off to Oviedo. After a whirlwind of sights and sounds, the first twist comes when it’s not the single girl who falls for the artist, but the affianced Vicky. Oh dear. Mind you, her fiance is about as dull as they come, an American financier with about as much romance in him as a wet weekend in Wigan. There you go, an alliterative assault on an awful ‘abitat. Bdum tsch.

Cristina then decides she wants a piece of the action, and let’s face it, ladies, Juan Antonio is a bit of a dish – he grouches, he grumps, he has an aging father who writes poetry that he then destroys so no-one can read – all the old cliches get trotted out! He also speaks longingly of his ex-wife Maria Elena, for whom he still clearly retains much passion – even though apparently she tries to knife him. As the old saying goes, once you’ve had the cold steel of dagger thrust in your ribcage, there’s no going back. Or apparently there is in this case.

Just as Cristina settles into life with Juan (who by this point I really wished had been blessed with the surname Kerr), who should pop up in a blaze of madness but the aforementioned ex, Maria Elena. Now I have to say I am not a great lover of Penelope Cruz (which is odd because I like Penelope Pitstop, Tom Cruz and Cruz Beckham, so it’s not the name that’s off-putting). However in this role – for which of course she picked up an Oscar – she is brilliant. She is utterly demented, raging incoherently in a mix of English and Spanish, constantly on the verge of a breakdown, and yet passionate and sexy as well. It’s a cracking role, and one which certainly suits a fiery persona like Cruz. You rather suspect that Kate Winslet or Kirsten Dunst might have cocked this role up. Eva Mendes however …

Right! Enough of that. We then see a rapid turn of events as the painter and his ex reunite – while keeping Cristina around! Indeed there’s a cracking girl on girl scene in the photography darkroom. Well, it’s dark, so actually you don’t see anything, but hey, that’s what imagination is for … Vicky heads back to the States to marry Yawnsville Alabama, and quite clearly isn’t happy, whilst Cristina then realises the threesome life isn’t for her (Lynsey, take note! LOL! That’s revenge for the baby comments …). The girls reunite in Spain and further twists and turns ensue.

As with most Woody Allen films, it’s intensely thought provoking as a movie, and will really help you think long and hard about life, love and romance in all its many forms. Or you could just be drunk and want to go and ogle Scarlett or Javier. Each to their own! Well worth a trip out, and revel in the completely demented Maria Elena, one of cinema’s best realised portraits of madness in recent times!


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