Monday, August 25, 2008

Three's a Crowd

You can say this (among other things) about Woody Allen as a filmmaker: He sure does know how to give his movies a sense of place. His latest, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, unfolds in Spain (largely in, yes, Barcelona) and man if it isn't just the greatest commercial for that city. A (mostly unnecessary) narrator gives us the film's basic premise: two best friends, Vicky (Rebecca Hall) and Cristina (Scarlett Johansson), are spending the summer abroad. Both have different views about life and love: Vicky is more uptight and methodical (not to mention engaged), and Cristina is more carefree and spontaneous. Both of their lives are changed when they meet Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem), a painter just out of a troubled marriage (to María Elena, played by Penélope Cruz). The plot is rather thin, but the film overall has such a great tone that you don't even mind that. If you think of VCB as more of an episode than a story, then you won't be disappointed. Not surprisingly, all the acting is great — even Johansson for a change (I'm not usually much of a fan). The cinematography is excellent, capturing Barcelona in all its beauty. Really, VCB is just a very sophisticated movie that is wholly enjoyable — more so than Match Point, Woody Allen's last great movie. VCB is one of my favorites of the year so far. I'm giving it an A–.

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