Vicky Cristina Barcelona; Romantic comedy, USA/ Spain, 2008; D: Woody Allen, S: Rebecca Hall, Javier Bardem, Scarlett Johansson, Penélope Cruz, Chris Messina, Patricia Clarkson, Kevin Dunn
Barcelona. Two American students, Vicky and Cristina, arrive in the town to stay there for the summer at the distant relative Judy. One evening, as they were sitting in a bar, they are approached by a dashing Spanish guy, Juan Antonio, who openly asks them to spend the weekend with him in Oviedo. The conservative Vicky is reluctant, but agrees when the adventurous Cristina agrees. There Vicky falls for Juan when she sees his art, but decides to stay faithful to her fiance Doug, while Juan starts a relationship with Cristina, but then has to take care for his suicidal ex-wife Maria Elena. Vicky marries Doug in Barcelona and leaves for the US with Cristina, even though she still has feelings for Juan.Woody Allen continued with his unwoodyallenization in his later phase of career with his surprising romantic tragicomedy "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" that seems unbelievably alive, fresh and honest movie about male-female relationships and sexuality, a completely untypical Woody Allen flick. It's a simple story that celebrates life and also questions a few narrow minded traditions that prevent people from enjoying their life completely. Rebecca Hall is great as the conservative Vicky who suddenly looses her grip and "softens up", but Javier Bardem as the dashing Spanish guy Juan Antonio is the real highlight: the minute he shows up and approaches Vicky and Cristina in a bar, openly tells them he finds them beautiful and flat out asks them out to spend the weekend with him, surprising and blushing them both, the movie is set up for an amazing experience. That moment is so magical and fascinating it instantly gives the story power and thus the first 30 minutes of the movie with the incredibly cool Juan are perfect.
He counters every prejudice Vicky throws at him: when she tells him: "You just want empty sex" he flat out replies with: "Empty sex? Do you have such low self-esteem of yourself?" When Cristina is in his apartment and warns him he "shouldn't ruin the moment", he replies with: "And how could I ruin it anyway?" Unlike many other macho studs, Juan is an amazing character because he is never forceful, but always charming, smart and even a little bit melancholic. Yet, "Barcelona" once again shows how it's hard to sustain perfection in a long term in a movie: even though she won the New York Film Critics Circle Award for best supporting actress, once when Penelope Cruz's annoying character Maria Elena shows up, she completely ruins the movie and makes it uneven. Cruz is a good actress, but her role is entirely wrong in the first place because she forcefully made an overstretched quadrilateral relationship out of the original triangle relationship, which was much more fitting. Sadly, the viewers spend the last 30 minutes of the movie figuring they are observing a movie they don't like at all, especially since it all ends in a vague way. Still, for all that youthful energy and Spanish mentality, the movie should be recommended, which is why it even won a Golden Globe as best motion picture - musical or comedy.