Woody's 'Barcelona' is depressing

Posted: Thursday, September 25, 2008

I watched "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" with exactly two other people. I'd estimate this couple was in their 70s; both were wearing the theater-provided headsets designed to boost the sound levels for folks with weak hearing. As we sat there in the theater together, even if they weren't aware of their third wheel, I eavesdropped as the wife commented to her husband after the mini-feature on Christian Slater's upcoming NBC series, "You have to go to the movies these days to see what's on TV!" How right she is, I mused to myself.

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Courtesy Of Mediapro
Courtesy Of Mediapro

And how sweet it was to see a couple at the movies together after what I can only assume has been decades spent side-by-side. True love.

Then we all got quiet (well, I was quiet the whole time, silently spying) as Woody Allen's latest take on love started.

Allen, who wrote and directed the film, introduces us immediately to Vicky (Rebecca Hall) and Cristina (Scarlett Johansson) as the two best friends set off for a summer in Barcelona. Helping Allen introduce us to Vicky and Cristina is narrator Christopher Evan Welch. Somehow it's appropriate for a Woody Allen movie that the narrator's voice is just a little off. Welch is no Morgan Freeman. He narrates, presumably at Allen's direction, as if he's reading from the pages of a novel that is mildly boring to him. It's odd at first, although his matter of fact style is certainly efficient. Before Vicky or Cristina has uttered a word out loud, we know the basic make-up of each.

Vicky is by the book. She's engaged to her dream guy and apparently her life is going exactly according to plan. Cristina, on the other hand, is the free spirit of the two. She has no plan and she's impulsive, which of course irritates Vicky.

Things get interesting, both for us and for Vicky and Cristina, when Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem) walks into their lives. After exchanging looks from afar with Cristina, Juan Antonio walks up to Vicky and Cristina in a restaurant and introduces himself. For him, that means asking Cristina what color her eyes are, and then inviting both women to leave with him "in one hour" for another town in Spain. What will they do there, you ask? Juan Antonio answers quite seriously that they'll eat well, drink good wine, and sleep together.

That's right. All before he's even told them his name.

Vicky and Cristina wind up going with Juan Antonio, setting off a chain of sexual encounters, secrets and lots and lots of wine drinking.

Allen is at his best during scenes featuring his characters doing nothing but talking about life. His dialogue is easy flowing and interesting (George Lucas, take notes!). His movie, with plenty of said dialogue, is largely a character exploration as everybody tries to figure out what the hell love is. Vicky loves Juan, but she's engaged to another man. Juan and Cristina fall in love, but Juan also loves his ex-wife (Penelope Cruz). She shows up after Juan and Cristina are living together and guess what? For a time, they are a happy unit, taking turns making love to one another. Love is complicated!

In the end, however, despite obvious desire for something other than what they have ... everyone sort of settles for life as is. True love is passed up for the safety of the mundane.

It's actually quite depressing.

As I gazed during the final credits at the two heads of silver hair a few rows in front of me, though, I realized true love does exist.

I don't care what Woody Allen says.

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