Vicky Cristina Barcelona
I was absolutely stunned by the high quality of this film. Woody Allen takes his brand of neurosis to Barcelona and, by God, it’s the best thing he’s done in years. After nearly a decade of mostly crap films, Allen somehow comes up with something that feels entirely fresh, looks absolutely beautiful, and allows his performers to shine. Scarlett Johansson and Rebecca Hall play two Americans traveling in Barcelona. They meet up with Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem), a smooth talking artist who offers to whisk them away for a romantic weekend. It sounds lame but, trust me, it’s far from it. Bardem is a consistently funny as a man confident on the outside, with major insecurities on the inside. Johansson gets her best role in an Allen film yet as somebody who wants to express herself artistically, yet acknowledges she is not gifted. Hall is a revelation as Vicky, capturing the slyness and charm of prior Allen employees like Diane Keaton. And watch out for Penelope Cruz as Antonio’s fiery tempered ex. Cruz runs away with her scenes, and what she does here qualifies as career best. As usual, Allen has a tough time wrapping things up, but by film’s end, the performers have been so incredible that Allen can’t sabotage them.