by John Stoehr
The Charles Towne Square 18 in North Charleston is doing a second run of Woody Allen's acclaimed Vicky Cristina Barcelona, a romantic comedy starring Scarlett Johansson, Penélope Cruz, and Javier Bardem. It opens Friday. The guy who answered the phone said the film would be up for at least a week. City Paper reviewed the movie when it came out in August. Here's was critic Jonathan Kiefer had to say:
Has Woody Allen just been spinning his wheels in these recent years, or have the critics who say so just been spinning theirs?
If we can stop making such a fuss about how unsurprised we are to discover that Vicky Cristina Barcelona doesn't seem at all like early Woody Allen, maybe we'll be able to recognize and appreciate how much it seems like early Bergman or Truffaut.
That is, rather than concern itself with strenuous thematic ambitions and contrivances of technique, here's a film that opts for what is perhaps a more enduring vitality, of empathetic candor. Here's a film that simply appreciates the emotional richness of life, and therefore nimbly dramatizes it.
To be clear, Vicky Cristina Barcelona is an old man's movie about young and restless women. If critics do bother to engage him, Allen likely will have to contend with accusations of misogyny and delusion. But these claims would be false; to those who can admit that they recognize themselves in Allen's yearning characters, his film will feel more like attentive reportage.
Vicky and Cristina (Rebecca Hall and Scarlett Johansson) are the women. Barcelona is the city in which they spend a fateful summer becoming variously involved with a beguiling bohemian artist (Javier Bardem) and his emotionally unstable ex-wife (Penélope Cruz).
It's best not to go into all the details, but here are some. Vicky and Cristina are friends, each comfortably but consciously of the middle class. Vicky, the pragmatist, guards herself with habitual rectitude. She has a corporate-lawyer fiancé (Chris Messina), the picture of security, waiting for her back home. Vicky's interest in the trip is academic. Cristina's is generic, predicated mostly on the conventional wisdom that Spain equals romance. Cristina is the sensualist, the willing naïf, without self-discipline and rudderless but eager for experience. As friends, they understand each other. But as tourists, they goad each other, with the conflicting impulses of domestication and desire.