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VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA

SYNOPSIS:
Two New York girlfriends, Vicky (Rebecca Hall) and Cristina (Scarlett Johansson) take a summer holiday in Barcelona on the eve of Vicky's wedding to business executive Doug (Chris Messina). At a bistro one night, a flamboyant local artist, Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem) invites them on a weekend of hedonistic fun a short flight away - in a small borrowed plane he flies himself. Vicky's reserve is overcome by Cristina's daring and a fabulous weekend is had. But something changes for them all and the situation is further complicated by the return - under dramatic circumstances - of Juan Antonio's ex-wife, Maria Elena (Penelop Cruz) with whom he has a tempestuous relationship.

Review by Louise Keller:
Love has never been so complicated as in Woody Allen's scrumptious Vicky Cristina Barcelona, a sexy romp involving a ménage a trois that keeps changing like the ever-changing tide of love itself. As for its central location in the city of Barcelona, bathed in a golden glow and filled with its distinctive Gaudi architecture, Allen perfectly captures its romance in this tale of adventures of the heart. We lick our lips in anticipation as Javier Bardem casts his bedroom eyes at Scarlett Johansson and Rebecca Hall. And that is before the fiery, scene-stealing Penelope Cruz bursts onto the scene.

The story? Two beautiful American tourists with opposite ideas about love change their point of view when they cross paths with a passionate sculptor. 'Life is short and dull,' says Bardem's Juan Antonio as he propositions the two girls in a restaurant, without even as much as an introduction. Hall's serious and emotionally stable Vicky knows exactly what she wants from life and love - until one night in a garden in Oviedo, when passion and spontaneity change her sense of balance. Johansson's Cristina is already impulsive, so her journey is less surprising at the start. But then there are more surprises as Cruz's highly strung Maria Elena makes her dramatic entrance. The participants in this ever-intriguing three-some constantly change and we can readily identify with each member's part - and heart. Charismatic Bardem is the catalyst, while sexy Cruz is as electric as a violent thunderstorm on a pitch-black night.

As the intertwining adventures of the heart change directions and find new crossroads, we fall in love with Barcelona and its lifestyle. Beyond the city itself, there is the magic of picnics on the grass, lunches shaded by leafy trees; purple bougainvillea creeping over the stone walls; bicycle rides in country lanes and the strumming of a Spanish guitar in a garden late at night. Allen knows not only how to show his love for a city but how best to involve us in the complex intricacies of cupid's aim in this thoroughly enjoyable tale.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Occasionally endearingly audacious, Woody Allen's screenplay for Vicky Cristina Barcelona is a further riff on the unique, unpredictable nature of romantic relationships among the human race. His observation of the female characters (and not just the leads) is spot on and is the engine for the dramatic core of the story. And a good story it is: jostled along by their differences, Vicky (Rebecca Hall) and Cristina (Scarlett Johansson) take us into the undulating world of female friendship when it comes into conflict with romance. But Allen avoids the many traps inherent in this scenario, and the two actresses deliver first rate performances; these are young women at their professional peak and worth seeing. (I have a minor reservation about some of Johansson's mannerisms which have been uncannily Woody Allen-esque since their collaboration on Match Point and especially Scoop.)

Javier Bardem creates a likeable and credible Juan Antonio, a passionate, life loving Spanish artist who is both a womaniser and a sincere lover. Bardem manages to fuse the various elements of this character so that it offers a fresh perspective on the Latino lover on the loose. He also adds a refinement that sits well with his macho persona and creative urge, expressed in bold strokes on the canvas.

And then there is the explosive performance by Penelope Cruz as Maria Elena, ex-wife, competing artist and temperamental fireball with dangerous tendencies. Cruz is fabulous here, slinky kitten one minute, volcanic eruption the next, all absolutely credible within her complex character.

Barcelona and the gorgeous town of Oviedo where the first weekend triggers the romantic complications are both beautifully shot. If I learnt that the movie was at least partly financed by either or both places, I would not be surprised. And cinematographer Javier Aguirresarobe has painted the exteriors in a honeyed glow, while Allen's choice of music is once again of the highest quality.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA (M)
(Spain/US, 2008)

CAST: Javier Bardem, Scarlett Johansson, Rebecca Hall, Penelope Cruz, Patricia Clarkson, Chris Messina, Kevin Dunn, Julio Perillan

NARRATION: Christopher Evan Welch

PRODUCER: Stephen Tenenbaum, Gareth Wiley, Letty Aronson

DIRECTOR: Woody Allen

SCRIPT: Woody Allen

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Javier Aguirresarobe

EDITOR: Alisa Lepselter

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Alain Bainée

RUNNING TIME: 93 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Hopscotch

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: December 26, 2008







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