review-template

Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz, Rebecca Hall

Director: Woody Allen

Writer: Woody Allen

Cinematography: Javier Aguirresarobe

Original Score: Various artists

Running Time: 96 Mins.

Fancy a trip to Spain, specifically the Catalan area? Want to take in the sights and meet some crazy locals (or Penelope Cruz to be more specific)? Well sod the flights there, simply take a trip to the local flea-pit and see Woody Allen’s latest study of love and relationships in Vicky Cristina Barcelona

As any self-respecting movie buff knows Allen has been off the boil lately churning out as he does a film (or more) per year, they have been lacklustre for quite some time now, to say the least, with last year’s Cassandra’s Dream possibly one of bis worst and the Hugh Jackman starrer Scoop yet to even see a release in the UK. So it comes as something of a surprise to find Vicky Cristina Barcelona is emminantly watchable through the pairing of the Spanish locale and a clutch of warm, if a little chricature-ish, performances.

London was the setting for Allen’s previous trio and it appeared not too fit his ‘style’, here he seems much more at ease with the Barcelona and the surrounding region providing the effortless romantic backdrop, nothing like some Catalonian architecture and museums to give your film a bit of romantic class. Being as it is a film by the ubiquitous Allen all is not straightforward in love, this isn’t He’s Just Not That Into You (thank god!) and the happy endings are never really all that happy. Think more along the lines of philandering care free Spaniard (Bardem) meets girls (Hall and Johansson), wants an orgy, has psychotic ex (Cruz), has a three way relationship etc. etc. 

And the film continues along these lines, though amidst all the relationship chaos you are more likley to be soaking up the Spanish vistas, because it’s really is hard not too be swept up in the aura of ‘love’ and romance which Allen has managed to captured in Spain through his direction. His script on the other hand isn’t quite as immersive, and though the cast are very good (Bardem in particular being likeable yet wanting to have everyone in his bed, whether it be alone of together) the material they have to spout is so pretentious you fee totally uncultured to be in their presence.

All the requisite ‘cultural’ bases are covered and everyone here is an academic, a painter, a photographer a poet….you get the idea, and that’s not too say it doesn’t fit, simply it takes away from any compassion you may have for everyone and I hate to say it but Penelope Cruz whom I often find nigh on unwatchable is the force that comes in to shake the storyup and give the ponderous proceedings some of the zingy characterisation Allen was famed for in his heyday.

However hanging over the whole film is quite possibly the most unusual use of narration, it is by none of the characters and feels totally out of sync with all the intimate relationship issues occuring onscreen, meaning that not only is it jarring but it fuels the feeling of the film being a, admittedly rather gorgeous, travelogue as opposed to a story about ‘real’ people. Were it not SO imposing I could have overlooked it but in this case it comes across as a lazy narrative ploy simply telling us things that really we could have worked out for ourselves,  “She had become engaged to Doug because he was decent and successful and understood the beauty of commitment” (about Vicky), shocker that, I’m sure we would never have worked that one out Woody!

VERDICT

Woody Allen takes us on an enjoyable jaunt through Spain, recapturing some of his long lost wit along the way and earning Cruz an Oscar for it! By no means is this a return to form for the veteran director, the bizzaire voice-over sees to that, but it’s a much more interesting study of love than Johansson’s last ‘rom-com’, then again that is to damn Vicky Cristina Barcelona with faint praise! 

grade-c

Advertisements