Movie Review: Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Vicky Cristina BarcelonaWoody Allen. Most people I’ve talked to either love his movies or hate them. I fall into the love category. I think he makes Films that are both deep and accessible, a combination you don’t find every day in modern cinema. You either have popcorn flicks or “serious movies.” You don’t get both.

Woody Allen is the exception to the rule, and Vicky Cristina Barcelona is actually fairly un-Woody Allen-like. It doesn’t star him, for starters, it takes place in Barcelona, not New York, and it isn’t full of quirky characters doing quirky things. That said, I still adored it.

Before I go further with the review, a disclaimer. It’s PG-13, but I don’t think it’s a movie that’s really great for 13 year olds. For one thing, a large part of the film details a relationship between a man and two women, all sharing the same house, room, etc. I’m being polite here, but you get my drift. And it presents this triangle of a relationship in perfectly normal, ordinary terms–as if it’s completely acceptable. Call me Puritan (and some of you no doubt will), but I personally don’t find such a relationship to be acceptable. If you’re sufficiently mature, I think you can watch the film and think about the aspects of relationships that Allen is exploring. If you’re not mature enough, I think you could quickly become confused about right and wrong.

Of course, this leads me to feel the need to justify my personal belief system in what’s right and what’s wrong. I mean, I can easily see someone objecting to my statement above. If a film can portray a nonstandard relationship as perfectly acceptable and normal, who am I to say such a relationship is “wrong.” If I were to explore such an inquiry, we’d quickly devolve into belief systems, and from there we’re just a hop away from religion, and then I’m defending my faith, something which I feel no need to do in a movie review. And so that’s all I’ll say about that for now.

On to the review.

Denisa and I watched this together, and we both really enjoyed it. What’s not to enjoy? The cinematography is breathtaking, and makes you want to book a trip to Barcelona tomorrow. The acting is fantastic. Penelope Cruz won an Oscar for her role, and it was very deserved. Scarlett Johansson and Javier Bardem both put in star performances, as well. The soundtrack is wonderfully appropriate (if perhaps a tad too catchy–you’ll be humming it for hours afterward). And the subject is substantial.

The premise is simple: two friends travel to Barcelona for the summer. One is engaged and firmly rooted in the real. She’s practical above all, and knows just what she wants out of life. The other is prone to the dramatic and constantly searching for More. They meet a man who invites them to come with him on a trip to a different city. Drama ensues.

To me, this movie is all about relationships. What makes a good one work, and what makes another one fall apart? What is love, and how should it be treated in real life? What makes this film stand out to me is that the characters in it feel real–not like stereotypes. They make real decisions with real consequences, and they stick to those decisions, avoiding Hollywood tropes and endings tied up in a bow. I challenge you to watch this with your significant other and not have it serve as a launching point for deep discussion.

Anyway. With the caveats listed above, I heartily recommend this one. Four stars, and it makes me want to do a Woody Allen post at some point, listing all the movies of his I’ve seen, and what I’ve thought of them. Maybe one day . . .

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