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Vicky Christina Barcelona (2008)

Written and Directed by Woody Allen

   I had held very little interest in Allen and his films, for no particular reason, until noticing that separately I had bought three of his films in which each featured Scarlett Johansson; though not the single reason for purchasing such. By far however, this film is my favorite of the three and Johannson’s role as well as Javier Bardem‘s were actually written with them in mind. Funny enough that it would be Penélope Cruz that would receive the Oscar for her part when not even featured until half way into the film.

  Telling the story of friends Vicky (Rebecca Hall) and Christina (Johansson) who are offered to be put up for the summer from a distant relative of Vicky’s in Barcelona. As well to assist with Vicky who was going to school for her Masters in Catalan Identity, unsure of what even to do with that degree in “real life.” A narrated tale of two very different women in what they choose to believe and the degrees of which they go about living their life. While Vicky is grounded and took matters perhaps too seriously, was engaged to a decent and successful man. She never spoke of him in matters of being “head over heels” or anything. Referring to him as would a colleague and in an almost tactical manner. Christina on the other hand had expected suffering as an inevitable component on the subject on love and appreciated the risk factor in it all. Only knowing what she didn’t want, unable to say what it was she did.

  It’s not until attending an art gallery that Christina found her first interest in Barcelona. Inquiring as to whether a man off in the distance was the artist finding out that he in fact was another one that had just had a falling out with his now ex-wife and heard something of a knife being pulled on either, Judy unsure of the finer details on the matter. Simultaneously peaking Christina’s interest on this dark and mysterious stranger. Taking in the city, the two girls later have dinner around midnight where Christina once again sees the man at a nearby table. After countless obvious stares he joins and introduces himself as Juan Antonio. That while having noticed them from earlier as well that he would be taking a trip for the weekend to Oviedo and would love them to accompany him. Treating themselves to the finer things the city had to offer and perhaps treat each other later in his bedroom together. “Why not? Life is short, life is dull and full of pain.” I’ve always found that, how is it, “h*es in different area codes” was okay, right? 

  It’s his abundance of charm, sex appeal and confidence mixing agreeably with his “no bullshit” approach that makes him such a great leading man. Everything coming out of his mouth oozing charisma and the dialogue (written quite gracefully) helped transfix your gaze to him no matter the scene or conversation. He takes an immediate liking to Christina, who gets sick the first night and is forced to spend the remainder of the trip in bed. Convincing Vicky to go off with him as he visits his father and continued to take in the culture of the small town that was accessible due to Juan Antonio’s ability to fly a plane. Everything adding up to be too much for Vicky and she gives in to this man who seemed to open her eyes to a world having held little interest in yet kept fascinated by its presenter. Her whole world revolving around everything meaning something unlike Christina, who felt bound to no expectations but that of her own. A freeing sensation she would use to hold a bit of jealousy towards her friend. She saw a new side of herself that day, with him and it would haunt her the remainder of her trip as to why she received no call back. Forced to watch Christina go off with him after only two days back from their weekend trip. 

  Enchanted much like her fearful friend, Christina begins to emerge herself into Juan Antonio until one night when he receives a late night call about his ex Maria Elena. How she had tried to commit suicide and was in the hospital. Bringing her back to his place and making introductions as he explains she would have to speak English for Christina out of respect from now on. Embarrassed and not trusting of his new friend that didn’t have the same color eyes, Maria Elena moves in for the remainder of the summer. Soon the three engage in a relationship with one another that seems too good to be true. You know what they say about that… Discussing the subject the next day, Christina brings up knowing that he must still love her and him explaining that it wasn’t exactly that easy. That they would be always be apart of one another but were never able to discover what went wrong with them. A curse as much as a blessing.

  All the while Vicky feels confused and unsure of how to feel when her fiance calls and suggests marrying in Barcelona when he arrived later. Bt also in the   fall with their big wedding having already planned. Unhappy and throwing herself into her thesis, she meets a fellow classmate that when given the chance, makes a move. Christina’s jealousy over Marie Elaine becomes slightly more prevalent when learning of the things she couldn’t do being the shorter list compared to that of what could. Finding it to be quite sad that as much of the appreciation that she had for art, she was in no way creative. Well sweetie, that’s where your great looks come in 😀 Upon further examination however finds that photography is in fact something she’s quite good at. And with help from Marie Elaine was able to perfect her techniques of which she spent a vast amount of time documenting her time throughout Spain.

  At a dinner party thrown at Vicky’s relatives she finds Judy (Patricia Clarkson) kissing another man just outside a window, in a rather open spot. Speaking with her aunt to find that for several years she had not been in love with her husband. Her shrink suggested expecting a magical solution was unrealistic; Because it is. Though Judy is convinced that she had missed her moment to leave, seeing a bit of herself in Vicky when confided to that her one night with Juan Antonio had given her second thoughts. An opportunity to accomplish what not able to in her own life, Judy arranges a party in which Juan Antonio was invited to help Vicky figure out if she was living the life wanted. There are no real second chances in life after all. Unfortunately entering at a moment in Juan Antonio’s life when chaos had found him again and was unable to hold Marie Elaine together after Christina departed. Claiming to not be as open-minded as having thought. The hectic manner of the two together being entirely too much for Vicky to handle once experiencing for less than a minute. Once Christina returns from France, she’s told of everything that occurred between Vicky and Juan Antonio with Christina claiming that if known, would have gladly stepped out of the way. Too late for anyone involved now. The girls return back home as though nothing on the trip had even occurred. The entire situations being nothing more than a foreign romantic getaway and the outcome being blurs with no more answers than arriving with.

  Perhaps to some the movie might seem agitating to view due to it’s “reelness.” I personally found it to be refreshing and showed a side of people that they may not usually choose discuss. The divorce rate may be quite alarming but so is the number of people who probably stay together out of “just cause” even though they’re miserable or to experience a loveless affair. At the end it didn’t even matter that there was a whole other life they could have chosen to live, Christina still only knew what she didn’t want while Vicky would be stuck in a loveless marriage simply because it made sense. Not exactly unfamiliar territory nowadays but backed by great conversing between the infectious characters that called your attention to each of them, for different reasons. I first only saw Bardem when viewing Eat Pray Love and believe me, that is certainly a movie that has to grow on you. I did not like it much the first couple times seen but had not really given it my full attention either. However once able to enjoy for what it was, turned out to be a pretty great film to add to Ryan Murphy‘s other successes. Cruz was such a gorgeous mess through the second half and captivated by the sadness in her eyes and anger in her adorable accent. Johansson…oh Scarlett; she’s certainly attractive right? She’s got nice lips and a great dumbfounded stare with full breasts, I get it, I really do. But she’s not always great to watch on-screen or does anything that someone else can’t do better. For me, she’s just something nice to watch but doesn’t have the skill to compete with her fellow actresses. Which leaves Hall, who I hadn’t seen in much prior though acted in the part with sincere connotations that it wouldn’t necessarily be out of her realm to act in such ways.  Definitely worth a watch if only for a slow night with some great wine. Get in the mood for the movie, you should.