Sunday, September 14, 2008

Rants on Vicky Cristina Barcelona

If there's anything to be gained from Woody Allen's latest "comeback" film Vicky Cristina Barcelona-- and trust me, there's not much new here that Allen hasn't done better before-- it's that the moment after Javier Bardem sticks his penis inside you, you will turn into one cuckoo-for-Cocoa-Puffs crazy bitch. Vicky (Rebecca Hall) and Cristina (Scarlett Johansson) arrive in Barcelona pretty normal, if a tad bit hung up on the intellectualization of the smallest details of their psyche and personas, but by the time Bardem's Juan Antonio has his way with each of these ladies, Vicky wants to leave her loving, but ultimately boring fiance and Cristina is engaging in a three-way relationship with him and his ex-wife Maria Elena (Penelope Cruz). The problem with Vicky Cristina Barcelona is, unfortunately, that Woody Allen doesn't find anything wrong with this situation and whole-heartedly supports Juan Antonio's sexual adventures while the women are treated as silly creatures who can't let go of their hangups and just be sexually free.

Not all of Vicky Cristina Barcelona is bad. I did enjoy the cinematography (I loved the yellow tint that most of the city was shot through and the landscapes looked free and enticing) and the editing was incredibly sharp with a consistently strong point of view. The most interesting moment in the whole first half of the film was when Vicky and Cristina are coming from the airport and even though they are sitting next to each other in the same car, they are shown in separate frames to highlight the fact that they completely differ on their viewpoints about love and life. They may be close, but there will always be something about each other that they will never understand.

The real problem with Vicky Cristina Barcelona is, rather surprisingly, Woody Allen's lazy, repetitive script. Not only, like his Cassandra's Dream released earlier this year, were most of the themes the same themes we've been exposed to through the last ten years of Woody films, but it is also the laziest, least interesting screenplay I've ever seen from him. The voiceovers gave away absolutely everything about how we should be feeling and what the characters were thinking at crucial times instead of showing us and letting the actors take control. And it's not even like the completely unneccesary voiceover is written that well; I believe at one point, the narrator says something like, "Vicky thought the bulidings were beautiful", could you be any less descriptive? Why didn't you just write "They were good"? Plus, I couldn't believe how little the characters developed through the course of the film. I don't care to remember how many scenes in the second half of the film revolved around Vicky trying to convince herself and everyone else that she wanted to be with her fiance when she really wants to get banged by Javier Bardem. Her character was interesting for awhile, but after five scenes with this same dilemma, I quickly grew disinterested.

Vicky Cristina Barcelona has one saving grace and, just like you've heard, that miracle worker is Penelope Cruz. I grew so bored with this movie by the halfway point that I was just hoping that she enter quickly to shake things up. Needless to say, my high expectations were met and surpassed. Forgive me for being a bit of a blurb whore right now, but let me just say that Penelope Cruz gives quite possibly the best performance of the year so far. She's fiery, fiesty and full of life; whenever she appears on screen the film suddenly snaps back to attention and she actually gives the illusion that this film is interesting or worth exploring. I completely agree with PUXZKKX when he says about Cruz's performance:
I just wish that she had been showcased more in her final scene, but that's what good supporting acting is - when an actor or actress leaves you wanting more. It is a spiky, tangy and exotic performance...
The rest of the cast is adequate, if not exactly as interesting or in depth as Cruz and her Maria Elena. Javier Bardem emits a smoldering sexuality and that's all the role really requires of him. Rebecca Hall starts off with that great berating of Bardem's Juan Antonio when he approaches the two of them in the restaurant but then she becomes the Woody Allen character and I completely lost interest in her. ScarJo looks pretty, I guess? She doesn't really add anything to a role that is just begging for something to be done with. Something has happened to ScarJo, and Woody for that matter, since their success in Match Point nearly three years ago. They haven't been able to duplicate it and, frankly, at this point I'm not sure that they can. C

1 comment:

Slayton said...

Yay! Thanks for referencing me!

I liked the film I bit better than you did - I thought it was well-written - but yeah, the acting wasn't great save for Cruz.