Vicky Cristina Barcelona
dir-scr Woody Allen
with Rebecca Hall, Scarlett Johansson, Javier Bardem, Penélope Cruz, Patricia Clarkson, Chris Messina, Josep Maria Domenech, Kevin Dunn, Pablo Schreiber, Carrie Preston, Zak Orth, Julio Perillán
release US 15.Aug.08, UK 6.Feb.09
08/Spain 1h36

Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Who do you love: Bardem and Hall

From Pedro
to Woody

Penelope Cruz
talks about her
Oscar-winning role

johansson clarkson messina

28th Shadows Awards
Patricia Clarkson

CANNES FILM FEST London film fest
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Vicky Cristina Barcelona Even with his weaker movies, Woody Allen is more astute than about 80 percent of filmmakers out there. But when he gets it right, as he does here, his writing and directing are insightful, provocative and absolutely hilarious.

Vicky and Cristina (Hall and Johansson) are best friends who travel to Spain for the summer, staying with Vicky's aunt (Clarkson) in Barcelona. Vicky likes order in her life, and is preparing to marry the suitable and gorgeous Doug (Messina), while Cristina craves unpredictability and obstacles, and immediately falls for painter Juan Antonio (Bardem), whose divorce from Maria Elena (Cruz) was notoriously violent. But Vicky also sparks with Juan Antonio, and after Cristina moves in with him, Maria Elena shows up to complicate things even further.

Allen's dialog is a wonderfully tight bundle of verbal gags and brainy riffs, which gives the talented cast plenty of clever, witty dialog to play with. Hall and Johansson are terrific as women with very different goals in life, and both add amusing touches to every scene they're in. Vicky's inner turmoil and Cristina's quest for "counter-intuitive love" are both beautifully played, especially as they interact with the relaxed Bardem, who's at his most seductive.

But the film is stolen from all of these fine performers by Cruz's wildly hysterical firebomb, who snarls and spits her dialog with wonderful venom. Maria Elena continually looks daggers at people and blurts out the most unexpected, crazy things, yet Cruz keeps her intriguingly believable, even when she insists that Cristina is the missing ingredient in her relationship with Juan Antonio. The way these four characters interact is snappy and unpredictable.

And underneath this lively, comical surface this film is a very sharp examination of art and love--the collision of passion and inspiration. These are poets, painters and musicians in the land of Miro and Gaudi. And Allen sharply cuts through the pretentions and expectations to find the core of these people, using an omniscient narrator to observe the goings-on with a bemused, matter-of-fact cynicism. It's as if he knows that everyone is desperately looking for the ultimate solution to the puzzle of the heart, even though there is no right answer.

cert 12 themes, language, violence 25.Oct.08 lff

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... Vicky Cristina Barcelona Michelle, London: 4/5 "A very sexy film with an excellent performance by Penelope Cruz - she plays insane really well! It was interesting/amusing to see the two girls ideas of love being played off against each other. And how sexy is Bardem!" (25.Feb.09)
© 2008 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall