Vicky Cristina Barcelona (12A)

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Drama

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Time Out rating:

<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>4</span>/5

User ratings:

<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>3</span>/5
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Time Out says

Tue Feb 3 2009

Woody Allen’s European tour heads south to Spain for a funny, lusty film that will have fans breathing a sigh of relief after the embarrassing gulf between intention and reality that was ‘Cassandra’s Dream’. A little distance goes a long way: while Allen’s cock-eyed attempts to infiltrate the greasy spoons of Kentish Town in his last film or the country houses of the Home Counties in ‘Match Point’ proved too much for British audiences, most will  be happy to swallow the Spanish and Catalan clichés – Gaudí, Miró, long-haired lotharios with guitars – that Allen lays on liberally in return for a light, witty, sexy exchange of views on flirting, relationships, commitment and the ongoing clash of lifestyles in the old and new worlds.

It helps Allen’s cause that his story is about Americans in Europe: two graduates, Vicky (Rebecca Hall) and Cristina (Scarlett Johansson) – one dark-haired, sensible and engaged to a humourless, chino-fancying financier, the other blonde, instinctive and single – arrive in Barcelona to spend the summer at the home of expat friends of Vicky’s family.

The pair’s conflicting attitudes to life and love are challenged by a gift from the Spanish gods: Javier Bardem is Juan Antonio Gonzales, an artist whose looks and lifestyle typify Allen’s perverse, tongue-in-cheek idea of the wild Latin temperament. When Juan suggests a weekend away in Oviedo and, maybe, some love-making (Vicky scoffs, Cristina pants) a love triangle emerges that not only highlights and upsets Vicky and Cristina’s differing ideals but also lumps them together in the same camp when the triangle morphs into a square: enter Juan Antonio’s hot-headed ex-wife Maria Elena, played by Penélope Cruz, who makes even Cristina look like a nun sucking lemons. Allen seems to be saying: Americans, get over yourselves. Our sympathies are squarely with the free-living and loving attitude of Juan Antonio over Vicky’s uptight mask or the drippy attitudes of her fiancé Doug (Chris Messina), who arrives mid-film.
The script is witty and playful, the casting just right: Hall and Johansson make for a warm contrast and Cruz and Bardem are more than willing to indulge Allen’s Spanish fantasies while running with the comedy of their characters’ love-hate relationship. Cruz only appears halfway, but Allen sets her up brilliantly with Bardem dropping mysterious mention of his fiery ex into every other sentence.

Exploring the mystery of what makes intelligent men and women tick in harmony and disharmony is what Allen does best, and so we’re back in the territory of ‘Husbands and Wives’ or ‘Hannah and Her Sisters’ with this jaunt, which neither takes itself too seriously nor wastes its ideas with sloppy craftmanship, both of which have upset his plans before.
The film has a pleasing pace, using voiceover to hop between scenes, some of which are mere tableaux. There’s no Allen or Allen alter-ego in this film, although we hear his puppeteer’s voice: ‘If you don’t start undressing me soon, this is going to turn into a panel discussion,’ breathes Cristina to Juan. ‘Let’s not get into one of these categorical imperative arguments,’ pleads Doug, summoning the ghost of Allen marching through Manhattan with Diane Keaton. After a hiccup at immigration, Allen can keep his passport – for now.
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Release details

Rated:

12A

UK release:

Fri Feb 6, 2009

Duration:

96 mins

Users say

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<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>0</span>/5

Average User Rating

3.7 / 5

Rating Breakdown

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LiveReviews|33
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Derek

I can live with the fact that I live with the fact that I spent some money to watch this film, but it is more painful to realize that I will never get the 90 minutes or so back I spent watching it. More fool me for not just abandoning it earlier on. Any film that needs a voice-over to convey what a film itself should communicate is doomed. (Was the voice over an afterthought as in Bladerunner?) One or two well scripted scenes at the beginning should have been able to convey what we are told by the disembodied voice about the motivations of the characters involved. Granted, it is beautifully shot, making the only real star of the film the locations themselves. The rest was so slight as not to leave any lasting impression other than to remind us that Woody Allen is still alive-but as a film director, only just.

Ophelia

I feel that a lot of people are looking far too simply at this film. I found it less than hilarious, but it rang true throughout and showed off a far deeper meaning than most, if not all romantic comedies have really managed to portray. For some the film is a 'lightly entertaining but essentially meaningless tale' and for others it is a 'deep and fascinating insight into idea's and relationships that fall outside of the common world.' I thoroughly enjoyed this film, it intrigued me right until the end and I found myself considering the light, simple idea that love really is something that can only be experienced through short-lived passion. I also enjoyed the repetitiveness of the music (The Spanish song that only came on when Vicky and Juan Antonio were together, the theme music gently letting us know, at the end of the film, that it wasn't going to be a simple happily ever after, etc), and the occasional jolt of the stomach when realizing that I shared a connection with, and understood the musings of the characters. Anybody who see's this film as 'a Spanish sleazeball posing as a misunderstood artist so that he can get a couple of girls to have a threesome with him' is frankly being extremely small minded, and missing the essential points in this fascinating film that is disguising itself as an un-witty romantic comedy.

jackie134

A pleasure to watch, great characterisation and acting, the classical guitar music sets the scene. It is amusing, thought-provoking, definitely sensual and sexy, very entertaining and a mature romantic comedy. So many people do what is expected of them rather than follow their hearts and dreams. Which is the right path to take in life! What regrets are harboured in hearts and what impulses stay as embarrassments? I thoroughly enjoyed this entertaining and wonderfully presented film. Unlike some other reviewers, I thought the narrator added to the texture and depth of the film. A really entertaining and super film

jackie134

A pleasure to watch, great characterisation and acting, the classical guitar music sets the scene. It is amusing, thought-provoking, definitely sensual and sexy, very entertaining and a mature romantic comedy. So many people do what is expected of them rather than follow their hearts and dreams. Which is the right path to take in life! What regrets are harboured in hearts and what impulses stay as embarrassments? I thoroughly enjoyed this entertaining and wonderfully presented film. Unlike some other reviewers, I thought the narrator added to the texture and depth of the film. A really entertaining and super film

Michael

How can anyone say this a bad film, i think to many people have gotten use to "guns" & "violence" look deeper into the film and you will see what i , and many others seen. Magic film :)

Michael

How can anyone say this a bad film, i think to many people have gotten use to "guns" & "violence" look deeper into the film and you will see what i , and many others seen. Magic film :)

franklin c.

At last an intelligent review. I'm refering to the one by mystic said. Allen has often paid "hommages" to other directors, specially Bergman (Interiors), Fellini (Stardust Memories) and German Expressionism. Vicky Cristina barcelona is loosely based on Truffaut's Jules et Jim, with the genders reversed: Vicky is Jules (Oskar Werner), Cristina is Jim (Henri Serre) and Javier Bardem is Catherine (Jeanne Moreau), with Penélope Cruz as an added mixture of both Catherine and Jim. The voice in off arration, which has puzzled so many people, is a direct reference to Truffaut's masterpiece. VCB is a redirection of Allen career, with just a few of the usual lines we have come to expect from a WA's film.

Richard

Even worse than the execrable Match Point - Woody Allen has used up his nine lives. The voice-over was so irritating and inane. None of the characters were particularly interesting, bar Penelpe Cruz's Maria. It was smug and condescending towards Americans for their supposed materialism - the contrast with the caricature of cultured, sophisticated artistic Europeans was very subtle. Woody still wanting to be Bergman, I guess. And the menage a trois? More late middle-aged fantasies. Vicky is doing a Master's in Catalan identity but can't speak a word of the language. Well, of course.

DV

Pretty good for a recent Woody film, although it's a shame he has lost his flair for screwball comedy. But then he is about 80; aren't people allowed to change style? A film about passion and people's varying abilities to control it. Javier's sexual confidence is extreme and funny. The ladies, Scarlett in particular, blossom in his presence. Rebecca is a tougher nut to crack, but when she does... (Perhaps, if we're extremely lucky, his next film - Whatever Works - which has just premiered in NYC, will live up to the hilarity of some of his earlier movies. Larry David stars!)

Paula  Moreira

The most sensual, interesting, personal, eccentric movie of the year. Woody Allen is an absolute genius, the script is so realistic and vibrant and each character delivered an amazing performance throughout the whole movie. It would be a huge mistake not to watch it! A work of art!

Paula  Moreira

The most sensual, interesting, personal, eccentric movie of the year. Woody Allen is an absolute genius, the script is so realistic and vibrant and each character delivered an amazing performance throughout the whole movie. It would be a huge mistake not to watch it! A work of art!

SteveH

This felt a bit like Sex and the City does Barthelonya, but without the sex, as the leading characters trough their way through tapas and red wine at a variety of art shows, guitar recitals, and architectural tours. The leading man is your typical bohemian Spanish artist, but with you know a private plane, vintage alfa romeo, and last year's Burberry collection for bohemian artists; you get the picture. Of the female cast, Rebecca Hall excels as the serious one, and Scarlett Johansen does an ok job as the flighty one, how Penelope Cruz got an oscar for the mad Spanish bint is beyond me, maybe for language skills ? Anyway, I don't think this was as bad as many reviewers suggest, it's well crafted and good entertainment so long as you don't expect more than a romcom...oh btw it isn't funny though.

Ed

Possibly the longest hour of my life, and the first time I've walked out of a film. To simltaneously produce the most irritating and yet most tedious hour of cinema I've ever sat through is really quite some achievement.

Miss Tab

Sadly, I wasn't impressed, it didn't really go anywhere, and when it ended I didn't feel like it had really ever started. Bit of a poor show. If you have to see it, wait for the DVD.

Vasilis

i am surprised this film has good such good reviews!!! i was totally bored. acting was awful...you take 3 untalented actors you put them in a film and then p. cruz. no wonder she won the oscar...the movie was also predictable, conventional and uninteresting. there was nothing intelligent about it really and rather stereotypical. It seemed to me too american. trying to be euro intellectual film but failing miserably. I must say thought the picture, landscape was beautiful...and there was great camera skills...So def not worth a 10 at the cinema but if a friend buys it on dvd...and have nothing else to do go and watch it together....

Cristina

Well I adored it... Frivolous and sexy, and Cruz in particular was superb. Also Woody Allen is wonderful, and this film is refreshing and youthful and fun. Go see.

Cristina

Well I adored it... Frivolous and sexy, and Cruz in particular was superb. Also Woody Allen is wonderful, and this film is refreshing and youthful and fun. Go see.

Marla

Huh.. Well I really liked this film. I thought Cruz was superb and Johannson was good. It's a sexy film.

john

This film was desperate. Every cultural stereotype was there. Allen clearly has no knowledge or understanding of Spain at all. The cardboard-cut-out characters made you wince. The acting was generally appalling (with the possible exception of Cruz). I'm amazed that someone of the stature of Bardem would associate himself with such rubbish. I also found a couple of the love scenes a bit creepy - like the voyeuristic visions of an elderly male sexual tourist. all in all, i was very cross to have wasted my money and feel that reviews in the media should have been more damning.

Paul

very poor film i didnt see penelope cruz as we walked out after 50 mins why? it was boring . . it wasnt a low budget film thats an insult to low budget films..but woody allen so bad ..what was he trying to achieve lost me very poorly directed . . . following a hen party in barcelona would have been low budget and more interesting and thats without a director . . . sorry woody but did you watch your own film . . . omg this has a bafta award and an oscar nomination . . . thats very misleading . . . . dont waste your money dont go!!! . . . paul

Lucy

I'm glad to hear that even the guys thought this was a dreadful film, Woody is consistantly over-valued and this is yet another example of a film based purely on his own fantasies. Absolute crap!

usman khawaja

suburbia SEDUCED BY BOHEMIAN BARCELONA - woody allen seems to have lost any sense of originality he possessed and in this bohemian artifice he needs a voice over to define and describe his characters ,is there anything more pathetic in cinema where a maker has to narrate the felling of his characters to deliver the message to the audience . SUBURBIA yanks in the form of a nymph christina SCARLETT and the miss republican representing miss palin end up for a summer of fun in barcelona and a rather misadventure begins which is a recreation of some form of a contemporary biopic of mr-picasso as they get feted and dined and bedded by a bohemian painter played typically by BARDEM . he is a stereotype latin stud who paints ,flies planes and has a sports car very typical of an upstart californian yet he is an intellectual in this lamely intelligent pretension of the cliched american view of free living europeans , his wife or ex wife is played by a fiery CRUZ who is imitating sophia loren rather well for a change as an exotic latina but she also has a character that lets her down as the script pairs her with bardem and scarlett. THEY indulge in a threesome which is rather not shocking at all despite allen trying to make it look very non structured and rebellious and actually looks inserted and misplaced if not forced to happen , the movie looks and sounds very pretty and every scenic view of barcelona is placed on the screen with rather a charming little song to make it a nice tour for americans and non americans who are unaware of gaudi and miro-somehow woody missed the picasso museum or was it deliberate as bardem was playing picasso himself . it all gets pretty monotonous as bardem bed all the three women who all profess to be in love with him and actually proclaim so to him and each other . there are other peripheral characters like a bourgeois american fiancee of vicky who is as conservative as mr.bush ,but also very understanding when it comes to his girlfriend spending the entire summer in barcelona . this is charming at places where some banter between cruz and bardem gets interesting but the rest of it is like a trashy euro flick which get showns as personal movies at homes and never get theatrical release . this has a star cast with serviceable performances and good production values but enough hypocrisy and lies to define human relationships in the most hilariously destructive modes with characters who are all in moody swings but not in any mode to convince us of their transitory emotions or their so -called intellect which seems a rather big pretense just as flawed as the art produced by the 3 artists in this trashy euro flick . scarlett becomes a photographer while cruz and bardem go back to being a psychopathic couple living and shouting in barcelona in this pathetic whimsical whimper with rather lilting music and postcard cinematography.

Mark

Pete's bum itch would probably have been more interesting for me as well. For those unfamiliar with Woody Allen, you could be forgiven for staying the distance with this film and (wrongly) thinking it was something new. However, anyone who loves his earlier stuff (particularly the fantastic Husbands & Wives) will be sorely disappointed by this pointless and, I'm afraid to say, unfunny & uninsightful film. Come on Woody! Grow up man! We've been here before...why isn't your artistic impulse maturing and giving us something new and fresh. Moreover, there was absolutely NO reason to film this particularly in Barcelona apart from the fact that there are no, say, famous Italian stars like Cruz and Bardem walking around. Ultimately, extremely disappointing light entertainment which is not worth a trip to the cinema.

olek

Weak film. Weak humour. Lots of "narrator voice". Don't waste your time (unless it's hurricane outside and you need to hide somewhere e.g. in the cinema).

Serge

Scarlett Johansson "actress"actually is a clone from original person,who has nothing with acting career.Clone was created illegally using stolen biomaterial.Original Scarlett Galabekian last name is nice, CHRISTIAN young lady.I'll tell more,those clones(it's not only 1)made in GERMANY-world leader manufacturer of humans clones,it's in Ludwigshafen am Rhein,Rhineland-Palatinate,Mr.Helmut Kohl home town.You can't even imaging the scale of the cloning activity.But warning,H.Kohl staff strictly controlling their clones spreading around the world,they're NAZI type disciplined and mind controlled,be careful get close with clones you will be controlled too.Original family didn't authorize any activity with stolen biomaterials,no matter what form it was created in,it's all need to be back to original family control in Cedars-Sinai MedicalCenter in LA.Controlling clones is US military operation.Original Scarlett never was engaged,by the way

Geoff

This cliché-overload of a film is, quite simply, awful. The narrative runs like an over-colourful promotional video to persuade package-holiday Americans that Europe really is a friendly, even bucolic, backwater where strategically-placed US-friendly characters will make you feel at home. Apparently it is set in Spain, or more specifically Cataluña but to anyone who has actually lived in Spain this is far from clear. The two main female protagonists are American and they stay with friends in Barcelona who are American. One of them, we are told, has done some Catalonian studies course but behaves more like an extra from Annie Hall. The only people they meet in the street are their friends from the States – what a coincidence... Even hunky Javier Bardem, who IS Spanish, speaks English – but with an ‘oh-so-sexy’ Spanish accent. And in a further absurd plot contortion, he has to force Penelope Cruz to speak English with him, even when they are alone together because he has American “guests� in the house. This sure is No Country for Spanish, old or otherwise. Then up pops an irritating voice-over, spoken by no-one in particular, explaining important information such as how Bardem took our plucky Vicky and Cristina for dinner in “a lovely restaurant� or how the daring duo traverse the Tourist Board Top Ten of this Ye Olde Europe metropolis, wandering open-mouthed through the architectural marvels of Gaudi etc etc. Then there is Javi’s “Dad� and what a jolly rustic old stereotype he is too – oh how we chuckled… And how we rolled in the aisles when Pen hammed up her crazy Latin woman act, even sometimes swearing in Spanish. And, not least, we have open-air flamenco in Oviedo – technically possible but in reality highly unlikely and certainly not “typical�. But then we are not really in Spain or making any attempt to engage with Spanish culture. We are instead in Woody Allen’s watch-by-numbers world for the culturally-deficient. Yet there is alarming talk of Oscar nominations and other awards. Dave Calhoun’s hugely over-generous review does, in the end, hint at some of the flaws when he refers to the possibility of “Spaniards booing in the aisles in the same way that many Brits reacted to Allen’s ‘Match Point’ and ‘Cassandra’s Dream’. And indeed, this is more than mere possibility. In Spain, the film has had a mediocre critical reception at best. According to the main Madrid arts and cultural guide’s review of reviews star rating, it currently lies in 16th place out of 18. Quite honestly, the only reason for seeing this film is to see how bad it really is.

kenneth, glasgow

I saw this film in Barcelona last week with my friend who is Catalan. We both liked the film and thought it was worth a watch. It seemed to be well received in the cinema. Its not a great film, but a good film. If you like Barcelona you will like some of the shots and camerawork. Its a fairly light film, but certainly worth a visit, particularly if you like Woody Allen films.

mystic

A halcyon Summer Eurpean fling inspired by Henry James meeting Jules Et Jim, with fully rounded authentically delineated characters through whom Allen speaks with wit and a tinge of pathos. The film is impeccably cast an so entertaining and thought provoking that I just wanted it to go on and on. Cruz offers a stunning spitfire performance and emerges as a truly great actress. Hall is an actress to watch.., She reminds me of a young Claire Bloom. Allen tries a refreshingly spot on gently mockingly anti-American tactic here from a European perspective, perhaps reignited by the Bush years of arrogance. Allen has also matured, correcting a decade of lapsed creativity, viewing sex from different angles, as opposed to Phillip Roth's boring one-trick-pony approach ("Elegy"). The minor flaws are inconsequential. A tour de force revelation. Bravo Allen!!

mystic

A halcyon Summer Eurpean fling inspired by Henry James meeting Jules Et Jim, with fully rounded authentically delineated characters through whom Allen speaks with wit and a tinge of pathos. The film is impeccably cast an so entertaining and thought provoking that I just wanted it to go on and on. Cruz offers a stunning spitfire performance and emerges as a truly great actress. Hall is an actress to watch.., She reminds me of a young Claire Bloom. Allen tries a refreshingly spot on gently mockingly anti-American tactic here from a European perspective, perhaps reignited by the Bush years of arrogance. Allen has also matured, correcting a decade of lapsed creativity, viewing sex from different angles, as opposed to Phillip Roth's boring one-trick-pony approach ("Elegy"). The minor flaws are inconsequential. A tour de force revelation. Bravo Allen!!