Vicky Cristina Barcelona
- Woody Allen
- Reviewed by
- Gon Curiel a.k.a. Groucho
- Review date
- Thursday, December 11, 2008
The story is quite more complex than meets the eye, which is why most of us commentators can’t avoid pointing out its utter simplicity that in this case seems to be, ironically, excessive. It starts with the travel of two American women to Barcelona, Spain, and goes as far as a woman stuck in an unhappy marriage risking a young woman’s integrity—and life—by attempting to save her from the fate that she couldn’t escape, never realizing that it is the very pursuit of that fate which drives the other woman the same way that it drove her in her time, a mistake that she would probably make again if given the choice. Patricia Clarkson, one of the finest actresses around, plays this bit character which serves as a trigger that turns one of the protagonists, Vicky, into the most tragic of all characters here; it’s a part that pulls the rug from under our feet more than a few times, always surprisingly, but never quite noticeably, meaning that the twists and turns of her personality can only be clearly outlined after the viewing which smoothens her evolution so rhythmically that it makes Darwin’s evolutionary theory look like a series of sad, broad sketches of humanity going forward.
Never quite taking first chair, but in turn creating a contrast for deeper analysis of Vicky, there’s one of the most interesting love triangles I have seen outside of a porno movie, and the clash of two very different cultures and mentalities saving one of the wickedest couples from routine conflict that doesn’t only terrify them on account of the violence of which one of them is capable, but of the risk of being similar to the rest of the world.
Javier Bardem plays an artist who can’t see why free love is to be repudiated, shocking the Americans, while at heart he believes in true love never taking away the possibility of experimenting with it in a mixture of physical and metaphysical way to achieve the realization of romanticism without it having to be tragic, which is a theory of his ever-enigmatic ex-wife he adores but can’t deal with unless a “secret ingredient”, which they haven’t found, and whose nature they don’t know, and of which existence they doubt, but which they tirelessly if hopelessly look for, comes up. Enter Scarlett Johansson, again in the same kind of performance we have learned to expect from her, which is frankly nothing exceptional, using that very commonness to strike harder in the pivotal role that constitutes the happiness of two people regardless of her best intentions.
Since there’s no one in the world more capable of telling this story than Woody Allen, I will not get into details. Suffice it to say that Penélope Cruz, who appears late in the movie, is extraordinary, and Javier Bardem follows her closely, their inimitable talent greatly enhanced by the keen eye with which Allen sees them and the acute pen with which he differentiates them from the American characters, which more or less fall into typical Allenisms, except for Vicky who, performed by Rebecca Hall, is a breath of fresh air.
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