Three characters left me pensive, lightheaded and in‚ good humor; Vicky,‚ Cristina and the city of Barcelona
Woody Allen’s latest offering is witty, quick and heartfelt cutting to the raw passion and beauty of Spain, a city filled with Gaudi’s most memorable architecture, sculpture, and forlorn ingenues in love.
Allen’s writing and directing is back with a vengeance, where the writing never falters and the character development delves into the psyches of the title characters, without the utter New York neurotic verging on psychotic episodes.
The film follows two best friends, Vicky (Rebecca Hall) and Cristina (Scarlet Johansson), as they live in Barcelona for the summer with Vicky’s relatives. Vicky, who likes planning and thinks of love in traditional terms, is there working on her Master’s degree and thesis on Catalan culture. Cristina, who believes love needs drama and passion, is escaping her failed attempt at making a film about love.
Vicky has traditional standpoints on love and marriage, and is a throwback to 50s lifestyles when love was “simple and uncomplicated.” On the other hand, Cristina lives for the tumultuous men and ends up in sticky situations with even messier endings. Vicky’s and her fiance Doug (Chris Messina), a typical businessman, are engaged to be married and in search for the perfect Westchester County, N.Y. house to go to with their high-powered New York City careers.
But a chance encounter with a famous painter Juan Antonio, played subtly and sensually by Javier Bardem, will change the course of things. The famous painter is maybe more infamous for his near-fatal relationship with ex-wife Maria Elena (Penelope Cruz).
The movie is completely stolen by Penelope Cruz’s character who’s borderline psycho love envelops Juan Antonio again and again, and again. Her portrayal of a mockingly suicidal, beautiful and exotic artist is on par with her performance as Raimunda in Pedro Almodovar’s 2006 “Volver”. Cruz truly delivers a complicated and interesting person that you can’t help but somehow accept.
The intertwining of love, uninhibited sex and passion between all four central characters is intriguing and leaves the audience mesmerized. There’s the bohemian couple who find perfection in their relationship by adding a third, who becomes Cristina, and by Vicky’s uncertainty and falter with her fidelity to her fiance and life choices in general.
The music is intoxicating, emanating the feeling of having drunk too much wine just as Vicky did that fateful night in Oviedo. The cyclical plot line and eventuality of the outcome, mirror the way life takes us on winding paths full of intricate twists and turns almost to leave us right where we had started.