Monday, October 20, 2008

Vicky Christina Barcelona

I am in Oakland right now, and last night I went to see Vicky Christina Barcelona with my pals, John and Mary, at the Parkway Speakeasy Theater. The thing about speakeasy theaters is they serve beer, wine and food (including pizza, popcorn, sandwiches and veggie burgers). Tickets were five dollars and food was reasonably priced. Philly seriously needs one of these places.

We ordered a carafe of wine and settled in to watch Woody Allen’s latest flick. The wine proved to be a good choice, not only because the characters on screen drank lots of wine, but also because the alcohol helped the rough edges of the plot and dialogue go down a little bit easier. Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz were wonderful and delivered their lines naturally. While they both played stereotypically fiery Spaniards, they nevertheless created personas for themselves that went beyond what was written on the page.

I continue to be confused, however, why Scarlett Johansson is Woody Allen’s new muse. (He went from Diane Keaton to her?) She continually gives stiff, two-dimensional performances that are softened only by her full lips and womanly curves. In a strange twist, however, the most annoying person on screen was not Johansson, but her even more wooden co-star, Rebecca Hall, who played Vicky. She often spoke like she was reading a teleprompter scrolling lines she had never seen before.

Basically, the story was enjoyable, but not really insightful or funny. In the past, Woody Allen’s movies have said (or at least quoted) important ideas about human relationships, and I miss those little nuggets. Definitely, Vicky Christina should have been R rated to allow Allen to play up the main thing the movie has going for it: sexy people having sex with each other.

Woody Allen is at his best when he pays homage to his own neurosis and his own city. Unfortunately, he exhausted that topic (or at least his audience’s patience for it. Did you see Anything Else staring Christina Ricci and Jason Biggs?) I am glad he is still making movies and exploring new actors, cities, and genres, but this time he just wasn’t at his best. I will give him another chance though, and another one after that, because, com'on, he’s Woody Allen.


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