Written by Puño Estupendo
Admittedly, I don't really know what it's like to come out of college and have the luxury of taking a two-month vacation in Spain. One might hope, as Woody Allen obviously does, that your ideas of love, commitment, and relationships would undergo a metamorphosis that comes from the kind of soul searching and lessons learned from huge villas and troubled artists. Vicky and Cristina are two beautiful young women who go through this incredible journey for me so that I guess I no longer have to wonder about such things should the concept ever enter my mind.
This film is so full of cliches but the cast is just charming enough that it pulls it through what should be a joke. Vicky (Rebecca Hall) is engaged to be married but finds herself in Barcelona with flighty artist-wannabe, best friend Cristina (Scarlett Johansson). While attending a gallery party, Cristina spies troubled, chiseled artist Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem) from across the room and is instantly enamored with him. The tale told to her about his bit of infamy involving his attempted murder by his ex-wife seemingly just adds to her infatuation with him. Vicky however, is level-headed and practical about life, including her views on love. You know this mainly because there's an annoying voiceover that gives you all the narrative about these people that you'll ever need. If that wasn't enough, Vicky's dialogue is stiff and more than covers any other questions about her views you might have.
After the gallery, where Juan Antonio is brushed out of their minds, luck would have it that they go to a restaurant where he happens to be having an after-gallery bite to eat with friends. Upon catching Cristina's non-stop glances, he saunters over to their table and asks them if they want to go to an island with him for the weekend where he will show them the sights and the three of them will make all sorts of love. Though Vicky protests quite a bit, insults him, and says "no way" a thousand times, you bet that they end up on that island with him the next day.
Cristina wants him while Vicky is all sorts of disgruntled about things, yet…well, I bet you can write the story from there. An affair begins, Cristina promptly moves in with Juan Antonio, Vicky gets increasingly loveless towards her fiancee, and all is bland and predictable until Juan's ex-wife Maria Elena turns up. Penelope Cruz brightens up this movie in quick fashion with a craziness of character that is actually refreshing by this point. Her Maria Elena comes off as the closest thing to an interesting character here but even she ends up in a ridiculously lame version of Woody Allen's take on a male fantasy.
Twist and turns? Not so much. Allen's character studies are dead on but I really hate the kind of characters he's using for this. All of these stereotypes exist out there and he works the bullet points of them extremely well. Probably too well for his own good, as these are the types of people that (if you meet in real life) you have no sympathy for, roll your eyes after just about everything they say, and try to excuse yourself from getting trapped talking to them at a party.
What does work for this movie though, is the cast. They're all charismatic enough that you don't think too deeply about how much they kind of bug you, and the longer the film plays, the more you just kick back and go with it. Also ignoring my common sense as I was watching, these thoughts all inescapable, it became light hearted and enjoyable. The true fun with Vicky Cristina Barcelona is far and above Penelope Cruz, but it's not a bad movie overall if you just kind of go with it. Aspects of it beg to be taken seriously but it only works if you don't.
Easily though, this is probably more of a film for the ladies out there, but fellas shouldn't be too alarmed if this ends up being a date movie. It's harmless, the cast is charming (even if the characters are kind of ridiculous) and everything is beautiful to look at. The locales are fantastic, the music is relaxing and fun, and you feel all right when the end credits roll. It's only 97 minutes, guys, and you can always act like you hated it even though you'll secretly think it wasn't too bad.