Sunday, March 31, 2013

Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008)
Drama, Romance, 96 minutes
Directed by Woody Allen
Starring Rebecca Hall, Scarlett Johansson, Javier Bardem, Penélope Cruz, Chris Messina and Patricia Clarkson

People often think that I don't have a sense of humor. This is mainly due to the fact that I don't tell jokes, and I rarely find comedies funny. Slapstick humor only works if it involves Peter Sellers, or similar genius. Most comedies are so predictable that I see the jokes coming, and they aren't very funny when they arrive. But that doesn't mean that I don't like to laugh. I look for comedy within other genres because I find that humor works better for me when it is witty, and buried within a believable situation. That's why I turn to directors like Quentin Tarantino, the Coens, Martin McDonagh, Wes Anderson, and Woody Allen when I want to laugh.

Woody Allen's humor won't work for everyone. His earlier work did contain significant amounts of physical humor and jokes, but I think he's at his best when he writes more seriously. Vicky Cristina Barcelona falls into that category. It's an examination of human nature, more than a comedy, but there are still plenty of amusing scenes.

What qualities do you find attractive in a romantic partner? Allen asks that question, and uses Vicky (Hall) and Cristina (Johansson) to show two very different views. Vicky seeks stability, and likes to know what to expect from her man. Cristina is more of a free spirit, and wants her partners to have a similar outlook on life. Vicky has her future carefully planned, and is due to marry, whereas Cristina is still exploring and trying to find exactly what it is she is looking for. The thing is, she isn't sure what that is.

Juan Antonio (Bardem) is an artist, and boldly asks the two women to take a trip with him. He openly says that they will all make love during the trip. This proposition is attractive to Cristina, but Vicky is shocked by his brazen approach and wants nothing to do with him. Needless to say, the three do eventually make the trip. Juan Antonio is not a conventional man, and still has feelings for ex-wife Maria Elena (Cruz). Like him, she's passionate and unpredictable, as well as being an artist herself.

The story uses a narrator, and it's a great vehicle for some of the humor. Allen assembles a fantastic cast, as always, and the principals all give strong performances. Other notable appearances come from Vicky's husband-to-be, Doug (Messina), and Judy (Clarkson), who is an important part of the puzzle.

Penélope Cruz won an Oscar for her supporting role, and she certainly steals most of the scenes in which she appears. Her character is a catalyst for the events that unfold in the second half of the movie, and it's during this time that Allen raises the most questions about the motives of his characters.

The writing is superb and left me thinking about relationships I have been involved in, and also some of the relationships that I have watched develop between my friends and acquaintances. Human interactions are unpredictable, complicated, and fascinating, and Allen weaves an interesting tale featuring all of those elements.

If you enjoyed such movies as Closer, Midnight in Paris, (500) Days of Summer, or The Graduate, you'll probably find something to like in Vicky Cristina Barcelona. I think it's up there with Allen's most enjoyable work.

Overall score 5/5

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