Vicky Cristina Barcelona intrigued me for a few reasons. I looked forward to a new Woody Allen (Match Point) movie, plus I am a fan of Scarlett Johansson – his latest apparent muse. I also wanted to get a gander at Javier Bardem in a role that promised to be drastically different from his character in No Country for Old Men.
Vicky Cristina was a charming, sensual film that explored the complexities of matters of the heart, from the perspective of best friends Vicky (Rebecca Hall, The Prestige) and Cristina (Johansson, The Black Dahlia, Match Point). The pair visit Vicky’s relatives in Barcelona on an extended vacation, where they immerse themselves in local culture. Vicky is the more grounded, traditional type, whereas Cristina is a whimsical free-spirit who doesn’t conform to traditional societal norms. They have a good yin and yang friendship and an effortless camaraderie exists between them. Their days are spent drinking wine, admiring local architecture, and soaking up the arts. The backdrop was so enchanting I wished I could hop a plane to Spain myself.
Their trip takes an interesting turn when Cristina catches the eye of painter Juan Antonio, played by Bardem. Their attraction is instant, both of them exuding an obvious magnetism. Juan Antonio unabashedly asks Vicky and Cristina to spend the weekend with him, away from Barcelona in the city of Oviedo. Such a proposition is right up Cristina’s alley, but Vicky needs convincing, and only agrees so that she can keep an eye on Cristina. In Oviedo the groundwork is laid for a complicated relationship/friendship between the three of them. Juan Antonio’s romantic, frank overtures mesmerize Cristina and annoy Vicky, but a chance event turns the tables. Juan Antonio awakens heretofore undiscovered passions in Vicky, but his true connection is with Cristina. Sounds like I’m describing some kinky love triangle, right? Not exactly. The real trio to which the movie lends its romantic focus is Juan Antonio, Cristina, and get ready…his ex-wife Maria Elena, played by Penelope Cruz (Volver). Maria and Juan Antonio had a toxic relationship that ended less than amicably. I won’t reveal the details of how the three ended up sharing the same home, and bed – but suffice to say it’s the stuff of movies. In what world can a man shack up with two women and have them be ok with it? In Woody’s World, I guess! But you know what? Somehow it worked. When your characters are non-conformist, free-spirited, sexually liberated artists you can get away with this stuff. While the overall tone of the movie was light, there were moments that made the viewer examine his or her own life, whether single or in a relationship. The idea of pursuing happiness and living with no regrets was a recurring theme, and much like real life there are no easy answers. This was a provocative film with an alluring cast that is sure to please, both aesthetically and intellectually.
This article first appeared on Poptimal and can be found at http://poptimal.com/2008/08/vicky-christina-barcelona-crazy-sexy-cool/ . The article was reprinted with permission.