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Monday, September 8, 2008

Movie Review: Woody Allen Puts Together a Hot Foursome in Vicky Christina Barcelona

Another year another movie from the Woodman. Even the prospect of another delightful performance by Scarlett Johansson is hardly enough to fight the built-in ennui at the thought of another Woody Allen flick. Indeed the movie doesn't start promisingly. A narrator (not Allen) immediatly begins sketching in the background of Johansson (delectable as always) as Christina and gawkily pretty Rebecca Hall as Vicky who have just arrived in - you guessed it - Barcelona.

Hall gets stuck with a lot of the most typically Woody neurotic dialogue and at first she seems to struggle with it as many actors have before her. Yet she finds her way through it and builds a charcter of her own, her wide expressive mouth telling you as much about what she's feeling as her eyes.

Then in rolls Anton Chigurrh or rather, Javier Bardem, with sex appeal and charisma to burn. With smoldering eyes he purringly asks the girls to join him for a weekend of living - sex, wine, an airplane ride - and the movie takes off.

You see the engaged Vicky is the proverbial uptight good girl who sees love as security whereas Christina is the wannabe free spirit who is always seeking a transcendant love and never finding it. Bardem is the sexy artist who shakes them and the movie up and then Allen pulls one last trump card - the spectacular Penelope Cruz as Bardem's crazy ex/muse. She very nearly hijacks the rest of the film.

Allen and his cinematographer Javier Aguireesarobe show Spain in it's best light. Just about every Allen movie functions as architecture porn and this one is no different, feasting on fantastic country villas, Gaudi creations, and vintage amusement parks.

In between the lives and complicated loves of the cast seem to be on the verge of unraveling only to bring our two women back to where they started - which I found fascinatingly sad. My wife disagreed, feeling that they had gained some insight into themselves from their summer in Spain but I wasn't so sure.

What I was sure about was how nice it was to see an Allen film that could be such a pleasure and spark such an interesting converstaion at the end of it.

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