Although he is not present you can hear and see the undeniable hand of Woody Allen behind this romance set in Barcelona. In a film that at times feels like a precursor to the more interesting Midnight in Paris, Allen takes on romance in another elegant city with two young Americans who have been transplanted there from their everyday lives.
Vicky (Rebecca Hall) is the practical one of the two with a fiance who is kind but by no means a romantic. Cristina (Scarlett Johannson) is the more adventurous type and she is intrigued by a forward Spanish painter (Javier Bardem) who invites them to spend a holiday with him. All the red lights are going off in Vicky’s head and she will not have it. But Cristina is interested enough to drag her friend along on this whim. They have a matter of fact narrator to guide their little tale of love and personal revelation. Enter Maria Elena (Penelope Cruz) stage right and things gets a bit complicated.
This is a Film about love. A Film about people having their mini midlife crisis and a film about trying to figure things out. In that ways it is relatable and yet I have this uncomfortable feeling that Woody Allen is speaking to me veiled behind the worldviews of his characters. It seems like I can hear his voice obviously peeking out behind many of these characters so they lack interest. There’s nothing new and exciting. For instance, I liked Rebecca Hall, but to be honest her character is bland and she soon comes to realize that herself. It’s not just her either but the social circles she interacts in. The people are dull, middle class, American types. Cristina might have a little bit more mischief in her, but that does not necessarily make her all that interesting.
However, Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz play a pair of characters who are perhaps the most interesting. Maybe it is just a result of playing artists but they are often difficult to read and do not make complete sense. They are both romantics but they are prone to violent passion or angry fights. That’s the dynamic Vicky and Cristina get thrown into and I doubt either one expected it.
The story ends like other Allen films as a quirky romance with touches of comedy and strange acts of fate. Vicky and Cristina leave Barcelona perhaps a little wiser but with little more figured out about life.