Monday, 16 February 2009

Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008)

Let me state upfront that I am a big Woody Allen fan (there are increasingly fewer of us). It's not that I particularly love his early "funny" work nor his cod-Bergman serious stuff, but most of his post-"Manhattan" movies charm me through their zingy dialogue, amazing casts, and general air of pleasant inconsequence. The one recent exception which I saw on an airplane and which has never been released here is "Hollywood Ending" which is definitely sub-standard and I understand that "Cassandra's Dream" which I've not yet seen is pretty awful -- although I shall make my own mind up in due course.

I was therefore especially keen to view the above film which everyone said was a 'return to form', although that's been said before. Perhaps because the movie has been so hyped, I'm sorry to say that I was actually a little disappointed. It's a pleasant enough watch and Allen makes good use of the wonderful Barcelona settings and Spanish music, but it seemed to be lacking that leavening of humour which makes his films special. The story concerns two best friends from the States spending a summer in Spain, the serious level-headed one played by Rebecca Hall (who's really beginning to register with me) and the flighty ungrounded one played by Allen's new muse Scarlett Johansson. There they meet macho artist Javier Bardem -- wonderful as always but in a slightly degrading role I think -- and his fiery ex-wife played by Penelope Cruz. The latter seems to be walking away with best supporting actress awards at present, but I can't say that I thought she was all that remarkable, and would far rather see either of the actresses nominated in the category for "Doubt" walk off with the Oscar.

Anyhow to return to the Woody at hand, yes, it's an interesting enough movie and a pleasant diversion with a fine ensemble cast, but nowhere near his greatest or most memorable films.
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