Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Woody Allen on the rise
Scarlett Johansson, Rebecca Hall, Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz
Directed by Woody Allen

Woody Allen’s Vicky Christina Barcelona runs from promising to intriguing to agreeably incoherent to disagreeably incoherent to utter anarchy.

A little frustrating as film, yes, but one might say it successfully mirrors the pathway of romance. It certainly mirrors the pathway of the volcanic marriage of artists Maria and Juan Antonio (Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem), a disturbed, bickering couple for whom “shooting from the hip” can have uncomfortable meanings. The film traces the sensuous adventures of two American college grads Vicky and Christina (Rebecca Hall and Scarlett Johansson) as they summer in Spain and become romantically entangled with the couple.

The Christina story works well, with Scarlett Johansson delivering a free-spirited performance as the sexually adventurous one. True, “slutty American tourist” isn’t the most novel concept, but credit where it’s due for execution. One of the nice things about VCB, and previously The Other Boleyn Girl, is that they suggest Johansson’s career is still recoverable. That said, I didn’t buy the Vicky storyline much at all. The idea that a sharp young lady with a corporate personality would mentally dump her fiancé all for a fine wine, some Spanish guitar, and a hunky older artist strikes me as a very …. How should I put this nicely? ….. a very Woody Allen notion.

Woody’s notions are often French, and VCB seems like a bit of a feminized ode to one of his favorites, Francois Truffaut and Jules et Jim. The ideas here are simple, illustrating some not-exactly-head-scratching ideas about relationships (Each relationship has its own peculiar sense of balance? Go on!). But it has a pleasant way of saying it. It’s certainly one of the more enjoyable recent Allen outings.