One word came to mind after viewing Woody Allen’s highly touted movie”Vicky Cristina Barcelona: Pointless. Two young women on a summer vacation to Barcelona meet an exciting and sexy painter, Juan Antonio, who talks them into spending a weekend with him in the town of Oviedo. Cristina, played by Scarlett Johansson, is attracted to Juan and agrees while her soon-to-be-married roommate, Vicky, played by Rebecca Hall, at first declines. After letting herself be talked into the adventure, the three survive a stormy airplane ride to arrive at the beautiful city of Oviedo. Cristina falls sick with food poisioning forcing Vicky and Juan to spend an enchanting weekend together. The scene is set for the entanglement of the three’s love life over the course of the summer in Barcelona including the appearance of Juan’s temptitous ex-wife,Maria Elena, played by Penelope Cruz.
Rebecca Hall, with her awkward body and rather plain face, projects a character that is very confident and self assured in her beliefs about what makes up love and marriage in her very secure world. Johansson’s character is searching for the meaning of life and love….as long as life and love are not boring. Javier Barden cuts through his role of the handsome tender artist like a knife through but-tuh. But it is Cruz’s performance as the unpredictable Maria Elena that gives the movie an edge.
Penelope Cruz’s performance makes what is a rather stock character, half-mad, over-emotional artist, into a character that, while portrayed as an unstable wife, is the one character in the movie that has insight into herself and the other characters in the film.
My problem with the movie is not with the characters or the actors but with Woody Allen’s script. It’s the usual Allen plot of characters moving from A to B to A. I feel one could fast forward five, ten, fifteen years and these characters would still be afraid to move out of their comfort zone. To paraphrase Allen in Annie Hall, ” A relationship is like a shark. It has to constantly move forward or it dies. And I think what we got on our hands is a dead shark.”