Vicky Christina Barcelona
Dir: Woody Allen
Rated PG-13 / 96 minutes
Vault Rating: 6.5
When hot Spanish artist Juan Antonio Gonzalo (Javier Bardem) attempts to seduce two vacationing American women at once, love triangles abound in this mild mannered comedy-romance by Woody Allen.
When Juan Antonio’s fiery ex-wife, Maria Elena (Penelope Cruz in an Oscar-winning turn), re-enters the picture our emotional triangles mutate into boxcars. Then, as we observe Vicky’s (Rebecca Hall) rather safe but uninspiring relationship with her white bread American fiancee, our thematic plot-lines take on the look of something akin to a dodecahedron.
Bardem, it must be said, expertly escapes the type-cast that could have been created by his star-making performance as an amoral killer in “No Country for Old Men.” He happily, capably, pulls off leading man fluff with a romantic devil may care that is all very spicy.
Better still as the risk-taking Christina (Scarlett Johansson) pounces and the play-it-safe Vicky falls slowly into Juan Antonio’s prone clutches, because two finer looking women, there never were.
We sometimes wonder as we wander the psycho-sexual fantasies of Mr. Allen whether these films work at all for women.
That question tabled, there are some decent curves in the road here. Juan Antonio is first viewed as a dashing, red-hot latino. But his character quietly demures when Maria Elena returns. In comparison, she is a wild thing and Juan Antonio becomes almost pedestrian. We find hot is relative. We find that their relationship is at once very good and very bad for them and that something extra (another woman, let’s say) was always needed for balance. Very spicy indeed.
By film’s end, you will have been pleasantly entertained and the film’s value will slowly ebb over the following week. This is not to condemn a better than average romantic comedy. Vault is decidedly against such Hugh Grant and Jennifer Anniston goo. But this one is somehow better. Perhaps less predictable. Instead of boy gets girl, its more like boy gets girls and the test is more about which girls. Lip smacking, I tell you.
Still, if you want a more challenging bit of Woody Allen celluloid, with a FAR hotter Ms. Johansson, you would be well served by picking up the terrific romantic thriller, “Match Point.”
Until next time. Enjoy!