MOVIE REVIEW: Vicki Cristina Barcelona

A friend of mine met a woman at a party that I threw. They had a torrid, tempestuous relationship that he once described as “like heroin”. Couldn’t live without her, couldn’t live with her.

That description pretty much describes at least one of the relationships in the new Woody Allen movie Vicki Cristina Barcelona, which I saw on Columbus Day by myself – well, OK, with four other people, but without my wife, who kindly stayed home with the daughter. She knows my favorite film is Woody’s Annie Hall, that I’ve seen several Allen films, and was anxious to see this one, especially since the reviews were mostly positive.

Like many good Allen movies, VCB is about sex. Whether it’s about a giant condom or a split screen ascertaining whether three times a week is “all the time” or “hardly at all”. In this case, it’s about whether the two title characters, played by Rebecca Hall as the engaged Vicki and Scarlett Johansson, a Woody Allen regular, as the unsettled Cristina, will succumb to the title vista. That includes Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem) as the most forthright Lothario you’ll ever meet.

I found the movie to be a quite nice experience when Maria Elena (Penélope Cruz), the ex of Juan Antonio shows up. She is a force of nature, and ramps up the film from a pleasant diversion to one worth seeing.

There’s also a mildly interesting subplot involving the Nashes (Kevin Dunn and the always great Patricia Clarkson) that informs the main story. Chris Messina is stuck with that thankless role of Doug, the earnest, somewhat unpleasant finance of Vicki, the archtype which shows up in every other romantic movie, but the twist in this storyline makes that ultimately pay off as well.

I’ve watched a LOT of Woody Allen films, though none since 1995’s Mighty Aphrodite, save for the disappointing The Curse of the Jade Scorpion (2001). This is Woody Allen back, if not in his 1970s form, at least in his 1980s form, which is good enough to recommend.


Annie Hall

How can I explain why Annie Hall, released 30 years ago this very day, has become a major marker in my life? Why I’ve seen it at least four times in the theater, and is one of the very first VHS tapes I ever purchased?

*Alvy Singer, Woody Allen’s character in the movie, HATES to go to a movie after it started. Me, too. That’s partly because I almost sat on someone’s lap in a darkened theater, but still.
*When I lived in NYC that summer of ’77, I hung out around Washington Square Park.
*Alvy hates Los Angeles; I’ve never been.
*Paul Simon, of whom I was/am a big fan, made his movie debut as Tony Lacey.
*The cocaine scene in the movie? Definitely plausible.
*Sigourney Weaver made her film debut as “Alvy’s date outside theater”.
*It informed me that comedy can be intelligent and funny.
*Variety said expand the scene in “Annie Hall” where Woody visits Diane Keaton’s family & you’ve got Meet the Parents. I’ve met parents; it’s almost ALWAYS like that.
*Christopher Walken played Annie’s neurotic brother Duane.
*There’s a split screen scene where Annie and Alvy discuss their sex life. He: She never wants to have sex, only three times a week. She: He wants to have sex all the time – three times a week. Yup.
*I’ve been in a relationship where this dialogue took place: “A relationship is like a shark; it has to move forward or it dies. What we have here is a dead shark.”
*Film critic John Simon said about it: “Repetitious and aimless as to seem to beg for oblivion”. He didn’t like Star Wars either.
*I always liked the fact that Diane Keaton’s given name was Diane Hall. (In case you were wondering, Woody Allen was Allen Stewart Konigsberg.)
*”You only gave me books with the word ‘death’ in the title”. I relate to this, too.
*I went through an unfortunate period when I said, “La-dee-dah, la-dee-dah.” A lot.
*Woody Allen finally got some Oscar love. He was nominated for acting in, directing & writing; he won for the latter 2.
Go see what Fred Hembeck did on April 10. Careful readers of this blog may already know, since he, his family, and I all were together.

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