Sunday, August 31, 2008

Vicky Christina Barcelona

Ten minutes into the new Woody Allen movie, “Vicky Christina Barcelona,” I relaxed in my movie chair and thought, “Ah, Woody’s back.”
I hadn’t been very interested in seeing any of Mr. Allen’s films lately, but this one had the allure of Spain and didn’t seem too heavy.
If you’re going for sexy, you can’t go wrong with Spain. It was also nice to see actual Spaniards, Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem, at the helm. Javier does a complete 180 from being one the least appealing characters on screen last year in “No Country for Old Men,” (remember that Dutch boy haircut?) to oozing sexuality as hottie painter, Antonio. You believe he could get women to fly away with him for a weekend of art and sex. For him to be able to carry off both of these roles - hey, that’s acting!
The message of this film is an interesting one. We are led to question our definition of monogamy and how to incorporate past lovers and current ones into our lives. You can’t help but wonder if this is how Woody wished his life turned out. An artist who needs different people to fulfill the many facets that makes up his muse. He most likely resembles the manic Maria Elena, (Penelope Cruz) as opposed to the grounded Antonio.
Rebecca Hall, as Vicky, is really the one to watch here. She’s whip-smart funny, has a natural beauty and transforms the most on screen. She has a lot to deliver as an actress if we’re to believe her “awakenings.”
Penelope Cruz is always such a joy to me when she’s allowed to be a Spaniard in Spain. I never quite understood her appeal until I saw “Volver.” In her European clothing and messy hair, I can finally see her beauty and abilities. When she’s all scrubbed up and watered down for films like “Vanilla Sky,” she comes off as just that…vanilla.
This was an enjoyable romp with a perfect cast, including Christopher Evan Welch, (The Hoax) as our narrator. The use of a narrator is so Woodyesque. It’s a technique that often comes off as tacky, yet Woody always makes it seem arty and useful for moving the plot along. It’s effective in getting us inside the characters heads without having to rely on one person to be our main character. In this way, a good Woody Allen film can feel like reading a great short story; a glimpse into the lives of people we don’t know and then, with no easy answers or solutions, we are left to dissect our conclusions over coffee.

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