Hollywood hues
Holiday in Barcelona

A typical Woody Allen film, the dialogue-heavy Vicky Cristina Barcelona
is a must watch, says Ervell E. Menezes

Woody Allen is once more at it, matching sexual desires and fantasies and weaving them in his inimitable style as he captures the exploits (or is it sexploits?) of two contrasting friends Vicky (Rebecca Hall) and Cristina (Scarlet Johanssen) on a holiday to Barcelona. Vicky is one who cannot bear pain and enjoys life but is also engaged to Doug (Chris Messine) and wanting to take time off with Cristina, her polar opposite but accepts suffering as a part of love. She is not sure of what she wants but is certain of what she does not want and has just done a 12-minute film on love.

The film is full of some excellent one-liners
The film is full of some excellent one-liners

They live with friends Judy (Patricia Clarkson) and her husband Mark Nash (Kevin Dunne) who run an art gallery and soon run into maverick painter Juan Antonio (Javioer Bardem) who is going through a bad period after his ex-wife Maria Elena (Penelope Cruz) has just tried to kill him.

But this is not reflected in his amorous behaviour for he doesn’t hesitate to boldly proposition these two girls Vicky and Cristina on a two-day trip to an exotic island in his airplane. Vicky is reluctant but eventually agrees to accompany her friend and Juan wastes no time in getting to know them. He makes a play for Cristina but when she falls ill with food poisoning, he decides to woo Vicky, who in a brief moment of daredevilry gives in to his amorous charm.

But Vicky is then shelved and he works around Cristina with whom he gets along like a house on fire that is until his former wife Maria Elena is suddenly suicidal and has to be rehabilitated. How does she react to Cristina’s presence in the house? Not too well for starters. For one thing, language is a problem and Maria is more fluent in Spanish but is told not to speak it in her presence. But Maria Elena soon gets impetuous and fireworks are on the cards in the usual Woody Allen style.

By now, it is almost a game of musical beds with the maverick Juan barely able to keep his head above water. Judy and Kevin are not to be outdone. Love is examined in all its infinite forms. There are some excellent one-liners and one’s ability to be polygamous is closely examined. Can one man really be in love with two women, that is the question and that is being seriously examined when the eccentric Allen decides to pull the rug in the nick of time?

In a dialogue-heavy narrative, typical of Woody Allen, the players do their little bits effectively, Javier Bardem is excellent in his varying moods and emotions without being dominant and is ably supported by the effusive Scarlet Johanssen and the more restrained Rebecca Hall but after Penelope Cruz makes her appearance in the second half of the film, it is Ms Cruz all the way, particularly her Latino accent and pouting lips, reminiscent of her role in Pedro Almodovar’s Volver.

For Woody Allen fans, Vicky Cristina Barcelona is a must but others will lap it up too. Quite welcome in these days of Hollywood paucity.