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Movie Review – Vicky Cristina Barcelona

January 12, 2009 Written by JP    [Font too small?]

Vicky and Cristina are two friends who arrive in Spain for the summer. Vicky, played by Rebecca Hall, is settled in her life, she has a career plan and is engaged to be married. Cristina (Scarlett Johansson) is more of a free spirit. She likes taking risks when it comes to relationships and in life in general.

Vicky Cristina Barcelona, the new film by Woody Allen, chooses these two women as a vehicle to take us on a gorgeous guided tour through Spain. But the beauty doesn’t come without a price. The friendship of these two women and the relationships in their lives are tested by what they encounter in their beautiful new surrounding.

Their adventures and troubles begin one night at an art exhibit, where Vicky and Cristina are introduced to a local artist, Juan Antonio Gonzalo, as portrayed by the Academy Award winning actor, Javier Bardem. He’s ruggedly handsome, charming and very direct. He also has a dark past. Rumor has it that his ex-wife tried to kill him or vice versa.

Within moments of their first meeting, Juan Antonio asks both ladies to join him on a weekend trip to a remote region in Spain. Cristina is immediately intrigued and wants to go. Vicky, the more conservative of the two, protests vigorously. Cristina’s enthusiasm wins the battle and they’re off on an impulsive adventure with a virtual stranger. Vicky believes she’s tagging along to protect her friend. But is that her real motivation for agreeing to go?

As the trip begins, the attitudes they each have towards Juan Antonio are perfectly encapsulated in a scene when he brings up his ex-wife. Juan Antonio explains that, “I was in love with the most incredible woman and she put a knife in me.” Cristina replies, “That’s terrible!”. In contrast, Vicky wonders what he did to deserve the attack from his ex-wife!

Speaking of his ex-wife, she’s wonderfully played by Penelope Cruz. The film really picks up steam when she comes into the picture. She’s a volatile mix of artistic brilliance, natural beauty and a neurotic hurricane. Both she and Javier Bardem provide the two strongest performances in the film.

All these characters hold differing views about what love is and what it should be. You may agree with the decisions they make. Or, you may find them to be quite contrary to your own. Personally, I didn’t find the issues raised in the film to be all that insightful or thought provoking. In that respect, I cannot recommend the film based on the examination of these issues.

I would however recommend the film to anyone who’d like a cinematic tour of Spain. I also believe that fans of Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem will not be disappointed in their performances. They’re both really quite good. In fact, I think they’re much better than the rest of the film.

Vicky Cristina Barcelona is rated PG-13 for a considerable amount of suggestive sexual content. There is no nudity and little profanity however. It’s probably best suited for older teens and adults.

This film is still playing in select theaters and will be released on DVD on January 27th. It was recently nominated for 4 Golden Globe Awards and was just awarded a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy. If anyone of you have seen Vicky Cristina Barcelona, I’d love to know what you thought of it. Please drop me a line and let me know your P.O.V.

Be well!


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