At first glance, Vicky Cristina Barcelona doesn’t look like a regular Woody Allen movie. There is no soaring Manhattan skyline, no sign of Allen on screen and (almost) no neurotic psychoanalysing. In face Allen’s fourth in a quadrilogy of Europe-set movies (following Match Point, Scoop and Cassandra’s Dream) marks something of a brave new world for the 73-year-old direction, featuring as it does Spanish lotharios, lesbian dalliances and ménage a trois.
Vicky Cristina Barcelona does feature some of Allen’s particular trademarks; the sardonic narration by Christopher Evan Welch being the most immediately obvious. Although the tone is somewhat at odds with the fiery events unfolding on screen, the matter-of-fact voice-over keeps the narrative moving along and injects a wry humour into proceedings that keeps the film light and comedic.
This VO tells the story of strait-laced Vicky (Rebecca Hall) and her hot-headed best friend Cristina (Scarlett Johansson), whose lives are forever changed when they spend a summer in Barcelona. The two have very different ideas about love; Vicky is engaged to the dependable Doug (Chris Messing), while Christina is searching for a passion that will take her breath away. A chance meeting with tempestuous painter Juan (Javier Bardem) has a huge impact on both girls, a situation further complicated by the arrival of Juan’s beautiful but unhinged ex-wife Maria Elena (Penelope Cruz).
As with most of Allen’s back catalogue, the fundamental idea at the heart of this Spanish fracas is the true meaning of and endless search for true love. But here there’s no moralizing or agonizing, rather it’s all action with the sublime Bardem and Cruz leading the field with their theatrical performances that sweep Vicky, Cristina and the audience into their volatile, hugely entertaining world. It’s may be fluffier than some of Allen’s previous works but, thanks to his relaxed direction and the strength of his eclectic cast – and, in particular, the mesmerising Bardem and Cruz – Vicky Cristina Barcelona is a colourful, passionate romantic comedy that – hopefully – marks a return to form for one of the industry’s most iconic talents. 4 stars
Amazingly for such a talented group of people, only the trailer. No stars
Stars Scarlett Johansson, Rebecca Hall, Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz
Director Woody AllenDistributor Optimum Home Entertainment
Format DVD & Blu-ray
Released June 22