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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008)


Now I know what the ‘B’ in Barcelona stands for now. Yeah, I’m a dirty boy.

Two American women named Vicky (Rebecca Hall) and Cristina (Scarlett Johansson) spend a summer in Barcelona to re-connect with the lives they think they have, and hopefully be able to find inspiration in terms of love and life. When vacationing and trying to discover themselves in Barcelona, they meet an artist, Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem), who is attracted to the both of them while still enamored of his mentally and emotionally unstable ex-wife María Elena (Penélope Cruz). Somehow, everybody starts boning one-another and it’s all deserved. Why? Because it’s Barcelona, that’s why!

Regardless of whomever the hell he prefers to go to bed with at night, Woody Allen is a film maker that knows his shit and knows how to do it right. He always has a knack for writing these stories that are so simple, so down-to-Earth, and so plain, that they make you feel as if you could have written the general-premise of half-of them when you were still drawing circles with your big crayons. That’s not to discredit Mr. Allen in any way, shape, or form, it just shows you that if you have the talent to make you writing witty and always fun, then you can do no wrong. Sadly, this is not the one movie where he exhibits his best work. Sorry, Midnight in Paris. Maybe we’ll get another like you, sooner or later.

The problem I think that Allen runs into with this flick, is that he’s more concerned with the look and feel of the whole movie, rather than what makes it so important in the first-place: the characters. This may come-off as a shock to you readers out there, but surprisingly, the characters in this movie aren’t as electric or thought-provoking as you’d think. The two female leads that this story practically breathes and dies by, Vicky and Cristina (hence the title), aren’t anything more than just a bunch of confused, American college students that just seem to be the types of people who think too much about the little shit in life, and don’t ever decide to wake-up, smell the cauliflower, and get the hell on with what’s in front of you at the time-being. There’s even this one scene where we see how much of “feeler” Vicky truly is by the way she listens to a Spanish dude play guitar, and practically cries about it once it’s over. Why? I don’t know, maybe because Woody Allen likes these types of characters that make more meaning to stuff than their really is in the first-place.

Looks like Scarlett's wearing the same hair my sister's barbies used to have.

Did Scarlett kill a Barbie doll for that hair?

It may sound weird since I am talking about a Woody Allen movie, where the characters are mostly neurotic to the point of where they have to bring a freakin’ tranquilizer with them everywhere, but it just doesn’t work here as well as it does in other films. You could even go so far as to argue that maybe the same case with the characters being too neurotic and quirky are evident in mostly all of Allen’s work, but what separates the best, from the worst, is the way he’s able to cover it all up with witty and hilarious-dialogue that keeps you interested in seeing/hearing what these characters have to do or say next. I never really felt that with these characters and I sort of just wanted them to stop their damn talking, and get back to the whole love-makin’ idea. But without Javier Bardem in the mix. If you know what I mean?

If there is anything that Woody Allen can fall back on in this movie it’s that he is so determined and inspired to show Barcelona in it’s finest, and most extravagant form, that it actually works. Barcelona is a place I would always love to venture out to, but being 19, with no job, no wife (not that I know of, no kids (not that I know of), and no relation whatsoever to a billionaire, may never get the shot to. And if that is the depressing, but true case, then this is probably the closes I’ll ever get to that trip and I have to say it’s better than nothing because you really feel as if you are there in this setting, where the pharimones between these fellow-residents are just running-wild. Seriously, if this movie doesn’t get you hot at all, I don’t know what will. And I’m not just referring to watching this during the Summer-time, neither. If you know what I mean?

The other key-factor to making this movie work is the cast that, as usual with most of Allen’s flicks, is star-studded but shows everybody doing their best to make it all work out. For the most part, they succeed. Javier Bardem was just coming off of his Oscar-win as the bad-ass Anton from No Country for Old Men, and took a pretty risky, but big-move in his career gunning for a role that’s as suave and sexy as this. Thankfully, Bardem pulls it off like crazy and shows that the guy can play charming and cool, but also have you totally revved-up to go out there and tell babes to get in their plane for Barcelona in an hour. Thank you, Javier Bardem. You give hope to all men out there in the world, in the hopes that they will one day, find woman that are as desperate for sex as themselves. It’s sad, but true.

However much you want baby, I'll pay. I swear.

However much you want baby, I’ll pay. I swear.

People get on Scarlett Johansson’s case for not being the greatest actress since the glory days of Elizabeth Taylor (or some royal beotches like that), but the girl’s got a look and style to her that works and have you feel something for her character, even if you can’t put your finger on what it is. She’s got this real sense of vulnerability and confusion within her act that makes you feel bad for her character when she gets a tad screwed-over from time-to-time, and makes you just want to give her a hug and possible smooch on-the-side. However, we all know that will never, ever happen unless you’re Ryan Reynolds or Sean Penn (present-day, mind you), so it’s all hopes and dreams from here. Rebecca Hall is always showing-up in heavy-duty dramas where she plays the straight-laced, serious gal that does her own thang and likes it, and her performance as Cristina is pretty much the same old song and dance for her, but with a bit of a lighter-feel this time. Hall is good at playing up-tight and shows how one girl can practically go from despising everything, to just wanting more out of her life of living, and life of lust. Hall is always great in what she does, but here, I saw that the girl could really handle comedy and make it work. Let’s just hope Hollywood takes notice of this and stop making her co-star as the female love-interest all movies seem to need.

The most-popular and noted aspect of this movie was probably Penélope Cruz, with her Oscar-winning role as the psycho, ex-girlfriend. It’s a role that suits our usually high-strung actress like a glove, but also doesn’t do much for the story or it’s meaning. The whole movie, you are constantly just waiting for Cruz to show up and light everything on fire and have her presence be known, but she shows up to the party a bit too late, and doesn’t really liven things up like I expected her too. It’s sort of like me that one time at my own Sweet 18th. All I wanted to do was get my ladies, my money, and my food, and I had to wait 3 hours for that crap! What the hell?!? Anyway, back to Cruz. As she usually is with anything she gets thrown at her (even you, Tom Cruise), she’s great with this role and definitely brought out the most laughs from the cast. Everybody was pretty damn serious up until she reared her beautiful self in, but still didn’t keep me as awake as I would have wished for and being that this was an Oscar-winning role: I was expecting a shit-load more from her. But then again, who doesn’t just love when Cruz breaks-out her native tongue? Huh? Huh? Am I right or what, fellas? Okay, I guess I’m the only perv around these parks. Thanks everybody!

Consensus: Allen’s writing in Vicky Cristina Barcelona isn’t as sharp or as entertaining as it has been in the past, but still, with a cast and setting like Barcelona, you could do a hell of a lot worse with a hell of a less expectations.

5.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Despite the beautiful scenery in the background, I think we all know where I'm staring.

Despite the beautiful scenery in the background, I think we all know where I’m staring.

15 responses to “Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008)

  1. ninvoid99 February 21, 2013 at 5:38 am

    This wasn’t one of my favorite Woody Allen films either despite the cast and some of the scenery. I was more annoyed by the narration as I felt it was unnecessary. I didn’t really need to know any exposition in that film.

    • CMrok93 February 23, 2013 at 9:34 pm

      It was like Little Children for me in the way that it came out of nowhere, and wasn’t needed. Oh well, it’s okay to say the least. Not Allen’s worst, nor is it his best.

  2. Rachel February 21, 2013 at 6:37 pm

    Fantastic review. Agree with pretty much everything you said!

  3. Rachel February 21, 2013 at 6:38 pm

    Fantastic review, I agree with pretty much everything you said!

  4. Lights Camera Reaction February 21, 2013 at 8:26 pm

    Nice review! Shame you didn’t like it – I watched it for the first time a few days ago and just fell in love with it!

  5. filmhipster February 22, 2013 at 2:35 am

    Man, you watch all these films that I haven’t even seen yet. As much as I love Woody Allen, I don’t think I could handle Penélope Cruz. This sounds pretty similar to Your Sister’s Sister.

  6. Branden February 22, 2013 at 5:13 am

    The number of Woody Allen films I have seen I could count in one hand. I saw this movie and did not like it very much. I don’t think that Cruz deserved the Oscar that year. It was forgettable.

  7. The Blog of Big Ideas February 23, 2013 at 6:00 pm

    I give this film a slightly better review because I appreciate the intricacies of the characters and I LOVE the performance by Penelope Cruz here. In fact, it was a very nice surprise for me to see her take an Oscar home. A very deserved if not unexpected triumph. I do get what you’re saying about her showing up so late in the game though. But she does liven this movie up, giving it a lot more attitude and craziness, which it needed pretty badly.
    Though I agree with your thoughts about Scarlett, I do not think this is even remotely close to her best work. For that we should go to either Match Point (another Woody Allen film) or Lost in Translation.
    Great review!

    • CMrok93 February 23, 2013 at 9:49 pm

      She was great in both films, but at least she held her own here and that’s more than I could say for other people when they’re around the likes of Cruz and Bardem. Thanks!

  8. Mike February 26, 2013 at 12:55 pm

    Great Review – I really enjoyed this, I’m not a big Allen fan, though I really enjoyed Midnight in Paris; so was quite willing to see this with an open mind. It was also part of my February Challenge; 14 Romance films. I was quite surprised with how much I did like it; maybe not being seeing much of Allen’s previous work, I maybe didn’t encounter the loss of sharpness in his script like you did.
    The principle cast were all excellent, I think Cruz is a super actress, though they are all very good. Bardem just oozes charm through out the whole picture. (Though I just wanted him to talk about Rats! :) )

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