2008-09-05 / Entertainment/Lifestyles


"Vicky Cristina Barcelona" — Woody's Spanish Magic
Review By Robert Snyder

Filmmaker Woody Allen has moved far away from Manhattan, the scene of many cinematic past glories ("Annie Hall," "Manhattan," "Hannah and her Sisters). His prior three movies were in Britain and now, he's created a frothy sex romp in Spain.

"Vicky Cristina Barcelona" is vintage Allen, though a bit on the lightweight side. Although the writer/director is not actually in it, his presence is everywhere. All the actors, actresses and particularly the off screen narrator (Christopher Evan Welch), sound exactly like him. This could be a weakness, except he writes such great angst-ridden dialogue direct from the Allen angst-ridden psyche that it's always entertaining.

The character most Woody-like is Vicky (Rebecca Hall), one of two American girlfriends having an adventure in Barcelona. The other is Cristina (Scarlett Johansson), the more free-spirited one tagging along while Vicky does some academic research of Catalan culture for her Masters. Seemingly well-grounded, Vicky is soon to be married to a straight-arrow American businessman Doug (Chris Messina), who's completely clueless to the hidden meandering emotions of his wife-to-be.

Into the mix comes serpentine Lothario and celebrated painter Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem), sliding up to the girls' table and asking whether they would enjoy a weekend of winetasting and sex with him. While Cristina doesn't hesitate to bite the apple, Vicky is all aghast, spattering out desperate logic about her engagement and responsibility.

Suffice to say, they go, with Vicky ultimately succumbing to Juan's charms, though Cristina will follow soon. In fact, Cristina becomes so smitten, that she moves into Juan's artist abode, not knowing that he had his way with Vicky (not that it matters).

Before long, a hurricane strikes in the form of Maria Elena (Penélope Cruz), Juan's volatile ex-wife, also artist. But far from breaking things up, Maria Elena seduces Cristina with an aluring lesbian kiss, easily falling into a ménage a trios relationship with the ever-accommodating Juan.

Despite the sexual soapsuds, Allen keeps the bedroom antics soft and discreet, hence the PG-13 rating. However, his running witticisms are almost upstaged by the gorgeous scenery, sumptuously photographed by Javier Aguirresarobe.

If you want to escape to the magic of Spain for an hour and 37 minutes with Allen as your sexual tour guide, go see "Vicky Cristina Barcelona."

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