Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Capsule Review: Vicky Christina Barcelona

Movie: Vicky Christina Barcelona
Director/Studio: Woody Allen /
10 Word Review: Breezy, sexy, and wordy in a fun (and un-neurotic) way.

Best Thing About It: Woody keeps the successful European road trip going by molding his trademark dialogue to fit his cast, rather than the other way around. Tons of credit due to the cast, of course, and I'll get to them soon enough, but there was a considerable calming down of Allen's comedic style that let the laughs come from a more relaxed place, in keeping with the lingering summer-in-Barcelona setting. The plot doesn't break any new ground -- not even with all the polyamory -- but the writing is fresh and fun and other words that might also be used in a women's deodorant ad.

Worst Thing About It: I wasn't crazy about Javier Bardem's character as written; the bohemian artist with a smooth word for every woman in his life seemed more like a writer's construct than anything interesting.

Best Performance: The cast is uniformly excellent, so there's a lot of competition here. I have a feeling Scarlett Johansson is going to get lost in the shuffle here, which is a shame because this might be my favorite of her collaborations with Woody Allen. It's become cliché to say an actress does a lot with one flip of her hair, but Scarlett, the film's impulsive Christina, really does. Javier Bardem does sexy things with, as I said, a limited character. Similarly, Rebecca Hall treads well-worn character ground -- uptight East coast girl drawn away from her stuffy betrothed and towards a sexy foreign artist -- with the kind of (comparatively) plain-Jane sparkle that's become something of a trademark of hers. But all the best-in-show accolades are going to Penelope Cruz, and as much as I'm in love with Rebecca Hall, Penelope totally deserves them. The movie swims along quite nicely until Maria Elena shows up, but it hits a whole other pitch once Cruz and her scary-intense eyes start lining up potential targets of her potentially-murderous passion.

Grade: B+

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