Vicky Cristina Barcelona Review: Cinematic Sangria for the soul
VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA: On general release from Friday 13th February 2009
Now, I’m not saying that Javier Bardem isn’t an intelligent, deep and incredibly well reasoned man, but it doesn’t take a thinker of Einsteinian proportions to understand his decision to sign on for Woody Allen’s latest romantic comedy.
Scarlett Johansson. Penelope Cruz. Rebecca Hall. And he gets to boink them all.
I bet that’s probably as detailed as the contract and accompanying plot summary got, which is appropriate, because while VCB dips its toes in the heavy themes of philosophy, monogamy and self-validation, it appears the metaphorical pinky-wetting water is puddle deep, joyfully ebbing back and forth in a colourful Tesco-budget paddling pool.
Allen, as his fans know, does neurotic relationship dramas well and he’s on form here. The plot follows two American friends, Vicky and Cristina, who fly to Barcelona for a summer of art, culture and sun. Vicky (Hall) is the sensible, logical one who is engaged to her incredibly sensible, financially stable fiancé Doug. Cristina (Johansson) on the other hand is a daring, free-spirited wannabe-Bohemian constantly struggling to find that one thing in life that will leave her truly satisfied.
Enter Juan Antonio (the unrecognisably sexy Bardem), a passionate, quietly alluring Spanish painter who invites the girls to a ‘three-way getaway’ in such a hilariously frank manner that Cristina is instantly bowled over and, while she insists nothing will happen, Vicky grudgingly agrees to.
Things, inevitably, get more perplexing when Antonio’s section-able, fiery and completely unpredictable ex-wife Maria Elena (Cruz) arrives on the scene, and the quartet are soon left to explore the very nature and meaning of art, love and passion.
Every one of these actors brings such effortless, captivating and entrancing performances to the table, you can’t help but be swept away in a plot that would otherwise have you throwing popcorn at the screen. Bardem’s proposition to the two girls is delivered with such charming nonchalance, I was seriously considering taking him up on the offer.
While Johansson has little more to do than look pretty and confused (a no-brainer), and Hall does well with her character’s internal struggle against the fiery, enlivening thrill of unbridled romanticism, it’s unsurprisingly Cruz who steals the show.
Passionate, explosive and ridiculously beautiful, she’s the encapsulation of Spanish melodrama and revels in her plate throwing, seductive and completely bonkers role.
The film’s title is indicative of Allen’s insistence that Spain’s capital play a part as prominent as its leads. With sweeping panoramas of the city’s urban landscape and its winter-brightening glimpses of countryside life, it’s guaranteed to please Spain’s tourist board as much as make you google ‘Easyjet’ as soon as you get home.
Colourful, intoxicating and light, it’s the cinematic equivalent of Sangria. But in a sea of Oscar contending biopics and heavy dramas, it possesses that one, seemingly rare trait – it’s silly and frothy, yes, but God is it fun.