Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Vicky Cristina Barcelona on DVD 1/27

I have to admit: I'm not a fan of Woody Allen movies. Once upon a time I found Annie Hall endearing and my favorite Allen movie is Sleeper which I find to be a spot on adaption of Orwell's Brave New World. But the whole Soon Yi thing skeeved me out and I have pretty much boycotted Allen's movie up until Small Time Crooks.

...which was so horrendous it made me boycott Woody Allen's movie just on the basis of badness and not even his slippery morality and ethics.

I had high hopes for Vicky Cristina Barcelona. After all, it did just win the Golden Globe award for Best Comedy. And it has a most attractive and talented cast.

But I have to agree with Ken Levine's review. The writing is indeed amateurish. The story goes nowhere. The voice-over narration is stilted and heavy-handed.

Voiceover is a fairly ubiquitous crutch in drama these days. Whether it's the "Life is like a box of chocolates" homespun wisdom of Forrest Gump or the acerbic irony of Dexter: "Harry and Dorris Morgan did a wonderful job raising me. But they're both dead now. I didn't kill them. Honest ," narration can capture and convey mood and illuminate subtext in a way visuals alone cannot.

The voiceover narration in Vicky Cristina Barcelona is neither wise nor witty. It's banal. It's boring. It's completely superfluous.


"Vicky and Cristina decided to spend the summer in Barcelona. Vicky was completing her master's in Catalan identity which she had become interested in through her great affection for the architecture of Gaudi...After the girls unpacked and Judy's husband Mark got home from the golf course, lunch was served on the terrace...In the days that followed, Vicky and Cristina drank in the artistic treasures of the city. They particularly enjoyed the works of Gaudi and Miró...Once, Mark and Judy invited Vicky and Cristina to go sailing with them on Mark's boat..."
It's like being trapped watching a slide-show of your Aunt Mavis and Uncle George's trip abroad. Except Scarlett Johansson and Rebecca Hall are admittedly more attractive than Aunt Mavis and Uncle George. So while it may be as stultifying as slide-show travelogue at least the Barcelona scenery is visually striking--as is the cast which also includes the very sexy (now freed of the horrible haircut of No Country for Old Men) Javier Bardem and the exquisite force of nature Penelope Cruz.

Indeed, it's entirely Penelope Cruz's movie. Although she doesn't appear until almost an hour into the story, the movie doesn't really command any attention until she appears on screen. Sure, Javier is a great attraction. When he proposes a threesome between himself, Johannson and Hall, I think "Hell--I'd go for that!" Even if the threesome was Javier, me and the skeevy Woody Allen I think I'd take him up on the offer. But a threesome between Javier, Scarlett and the delicious Penelope Cruz?

No wonder this movie made so many critics rave.

Truthfully (despite the menage a trois and girl-on-girl action) except for Penelope there's not much passion or sex in this film. Just a whole lot of talking and typical Woody Allen over-analyzation. And the dialogue is written in a way that sounds forced and contrived. The actors do a fine job with what they're given to work with, but the unctuous and mundane narration spoon feeds the audience in a most unappealing way.

(Note to screenwriters everywhere: this film is a perfect example of how NOT to write! It's show not tell. And definitely not show AND tell. )

But there's definitely an Oscar nomination out there with Penelope Cruz's name on it. She was phenomenal! If you like pretty people and pretty places and Spanish guitar, Vicky Cristina Barcelona might make make an interesting rental choice. The DVD contains no extras--just the film with captions and subtitles and scene selection.

If nothing else, it might inspire you to do a little traveling.


  1. So true about v/o. I just saw The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and found the voice annoyingly wrong. I hated the way Hal Sparks did v/o in QAF (US) and was relieved when he stopped. And I hadn't even seen QAF (UK) yet: Craig Kelly was brilliant. When I heard him, it just clicked. I find Brenda Strong too self-consciously arch on DH, but I know she's setting the tone Marc Cherry wants. Just not my thing.

  2. have to say I thought this movie dragged and WHY everyone raved about the 3 stars is beyond me. is everyone just too pretty here for someone to get serious about reviewing the script?

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  4. I guess I'm attracted to the pretties. It's not his best but I was entertained enough. :P

  5. I guess because I expected to hate this movie, I was pleasantly surprised. Javier was great but you're right, Penelope was amazing. She's at her best, when she's speaking Spanish.

  6. Colleen,

    It's more a matter of content vs. delivery with this film. Morgan Freeman could have done the narration and it STILL would have been tedious and insipid.