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Fred Gets Woody for Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Published August 15, 2008 in Movie Reviews
By Fred Topel | Image property of Fox Searchlight
Vicky Cristina Barcelona PosterVicky Cristina Barcelona
Finally, a great Woody Allen movie. I'm hoping there are two more coming because they usually come in clusters, but Vicky Cristina Barcelona is easily his best in 10 years. I remember loving Sweet and Lowdown but haven't seen it since, but at least since then.

Review: Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Just the title suggests how profound the movie is. If he'd called it Vicky and Cristina Go to Barcelona, that's obvious and basic. Just using the key words says, "Here's what we're dealing with, now you figure out the proper grammer."

The narrator device is brilliant. He's a distant third person storyteller. This is way better than the first person explaining his or her feelings throughout the story. This narrator is just states exactly what is happening. You may wonder if there's more to it but there's not. It's just here are the facts.

The film is a simple take on people, events and social questions. There is no 4th wall breaking hook. It's a comedy in that there's no tragic event or despair, but it's mainly an interesting exploration of two reactions to an outrageous situation, and four types of people. Any funny lines are so sharp and biting, it's not a light romp.

Javier Bardem's confidence and sincerity is awesome. He can sell what might be a sleazy offer as heartfelt plea. I'd like to try his moves, but I just couldn't pull it off. He turns cynicism into optimism. Scarlett Johanson's free spirit actually faces consequences for irresponsible behavior (thank you, Woody) and Rebecca Hall's rational thinking clearly masks how threatened she feels. Penelope Cruz's borderline personality is so sexy, I can speak from experience about that appeal.

The writing is so sharp, it is again clear why Woody Allen is the master of relationship drama. This stuff happens and you just deal with it. Omitting an "I Love You" is a big deal. The characters speaking Spanish is so powerful and fierce. Woody en espanol really shakes things up.

There are a few technical gimmicks but they are so basic you almost don't notice. He cuts music with a clear tonal shift. The way the camera follows a character makes you anxious, and you could be right that something bad is happening off screen, but not in the murderous way I'm use to.

There's a surprising amount of resolution for a Woody Allen movie too. I wouldn't have even needed that but I like it. I feel like I've been through a real journey and gotten to know these people and it's just awesome.

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Sources: Image property of Fox Searchlight

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