"Vicky Cristina Barcelona"
Directed by Woody Allen.
Written by Woody Allen.
Starring Rebecca Hall, Scarlett Johansson, Javier Bardem and
Release Year: 2008
Review Date: 9/3/08
I'll give Woody Allen this much--if you want
to write a story about Latin American and Spanish stereotypes about
love and sex, you MUST cast people that fit the bill...so, a cast of
Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem and import Scarlett Johansson works
wonders for a script loaded to the hilt with movie clichés about the
Latin Lover mystique.
This is what eventually makes "Vicky
Cristina Barcelona" so great--not the Johansson/Cruz kiss, which is
worthless; not the beautiful scenery, which is lovely but does not a
film make; not the assured delivery by Bardem as an artist tortured
by flings with American tourists. No, it's that these actors,
along with Rebecca Hall from the great under-the-radar comedy
10" from two years ago, make so much out of what to me was a
very plain, pedestrian script that has enough direct,
straight-forward talk about love, life's mistakes, sex and the
occasional threesome to come off as explosive in the hands of the
Allen is the right director, though, because
he gets so much done so quietly in this film. Rarely do I
leave the theater impressed, in that I like when a director takes
what he's got and tries to do almost nothing outside of what he's
there to do...it's hard to explain, but I actually respected this
film more for not trying to go outside the lines. Allen's got
Bardem calmly talking his way into a long weekend with two beautiful
women, and it seems completely natural; Bardem hugging his dad
intimately, totally natural; Cruz shows up as a ridiculously-hot
faux psychopath, but in her scenes, she seems totally
natural...Johansson is asked to walk around Barcelona, looking
pretty, and talking about her new paramour. Totally natural.
In fact, that no one appears to even be
acting in this film makes it better, in a way. The narration
bothered me extensively (this stems from my complete hatred for
narration), and the "tell, don't show" nature of any lovemaking
scenes is a very American approach to films, which is unfortunate
given the international nature of the movie. Something about
"PG-13" and "regular threesomes with three of the hottest people on
the planet" doesn't jibe with me, you know? Also, painting
Vicky's fiancé as a homer who only cares about other rich people was
a silly way to make him appear even more like an asshole, when all
that should matter is that he loves Vicky through and through, a
fact that is suppressed until nearly the end of the film.
"Vicky Cristina Barcelona" accomplished a
lot, though, in a short amount of time. I always like these
late summer romantic comedies IF they accomplish both sides of the
deal, and this film is one that does that in spades.
Rating: $9.50 Show
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Bellview Rating System:
"Opening Weekend": This is
the highest rating a movie can receive. Reserved for movies that
exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development,
setting...or Salma Hayek. Not necessarily in that order.
"$X.XX Show": This price
changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently,
it is the $9.50 Show. While not technically perfect, this is a
movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.
"Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca",
but you'll have a great time watching. The $9.50 Show won't win any
Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see
"Matinee": An average movie
that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.
Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about
yourself. A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave
the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that
Lakers game last night?"
"Rental": This rating
indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your
friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one." Mostly forgettable, you
couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to
watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the
video store was out of copies of "Ronin." If you can, see this
movie for free. This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a
"Hard Vice": This rating is
the bottom of the barrel. A movie that only six other human beings
have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen. A Shannon
Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every
one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a
movie. Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or
"Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this
movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!
(Warning: strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard