Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Vicky and Cristina, a pair of young Americans in their mid 20s, are friends vacationing together in Spain for a couple of months. Neither entirely qualifies as a classic American innocent abroad, but both get variously entangled in impulsive romances with a boldly attentive Spaniard, an artist named Juan Antonio. There’s bittersweet romantic comedy aplenty in that situation alone, and the dynamics of humor and drama alike get even more pungent when a fourth character—Juan Antonio’s volatile ex-wife Maria Elena—enters the mix. Written and directed by Woody Allen, the film has little in the way of “typical” Woody clowning, and no character whatsoever played by the man himself. But Woody Allen the filmmaker is in top form here, and even with the manifest benefits of an excellent cast (Rebecca Hall and Scarlett Johansson as the title characters, Javier Bardem and Penélope Cruz as the Spanish couple), it is Allen’s direction (of actors and script) that emerges as the key ingredient in the film’s lively and surprisingly moving mixture of comedy and drama.