Most of Woody Allen’s characters talk in a mad-hysteria of banter. They speak fast and furious, conversing as though they have memorized the dictionary and the thesaurus. It’s common knowledge that you either love Woody Allen or you hate him. I used to be in the latter group, but I’m starting to come around.
Vicky Cristina Barcelona is Allen’s new European-set film. After Match Point and Cassandra’s Dream, Allen is making a wise decision to step away from his constant Manhattan setting. By getting out of the city, Allen presents wondrous landscapes of places and people that intrigue us.
Vicky (Rebecca Hall) and Cristina (Scarlett Johansson) are best friends spending the rest of their summer in the sexy hills of Barcelona. They stay with Vicky’s relative (Patricia Clarkson) and soon meet a dashing artist, Juan (Javier Bardem) who invites them for a weekend away for great wine, good food and passionate love making.
Vicky, the uptight, soon to be wed to a rich, pompous Wall Street guy, is repulsed by the offer. Cristina, on the other hand, is wildly turned on. They accept Juan’s proposal and soon a whimsical love triangle develops. But it isn’t until Juan’s semi-psychotic ex-wife (an incredible Penelope Cruz) comes in, that the film really takes off.
Bardem and Cruz (who are dating in real life) engage in fantastically believable arguments that send sparks flying. Watching Cruz break Bardem down by berated him in Spanish is great, delicious fun. Bardem, in a complete 180-transformation from his No Country for Old Men role, really sinks his teeth into this juicy role of a Spanish bravado.
Like other Allen characters, most of these have no idea what they want. They pretend that they don’t care, or that they care too much, but usually, they make bad decisions and start to question everything. No one does this better than Rebecca Hall. You may remember her from The Prestige as Christian Bale’s tortured wife, but as Vicky, she is incredible. I believed her guilt, passion, desire and angst more than anyone else. I’d give her a nomination hands down.
So, if you’re an Allen fan, then check this out. If not, go rent Hannah and Her Sisters, or Annie Hall, or hell, even Match Point. A-