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Vicky Cristina Barcelona

DVD Two Stars
I am not a fan of Woody Allen, and I never have been, until I saw Match Point (Filmstalker review) and I was surprised, you could even say shocked, to realise that he could produce such a strong film void of the introspective comedy he was famous for. So I was drawn to Vicky Cristina Barcelona thinking that we could be seeing something on a similar vein, perhaps even better.

What I did find though was disappointment. Yes, it’s not a Woody Allen film filled with his own style of comedy, but it’s no Match Point either.

Plot.pngVickyCristinaBarcelona.jpgThe story is pretty simple, best friends Vicky, played by Scarlett Johansson, and Cristina, played by Rebecca Hall Orange BAFTA Rising Star nominee 2009, head to Barcelona for a holiday ahead of Cristina getting married. Cristina is the down to earth one with her heart set on a good, rich man, ready to get married and become set for life. Vicky isn’t. She’s the wild one unsure of what she wants and never allowing herself to settle into something for too long.

When they arrive in Barcelona they have a chance meeting with a great looking, extremely charming and very forthright man played by Javier Bardem who invites them away for the weekend, leaving that night, to an island where they will enjoy good food, drink wine, see the sights, and make love. Yes, all three of them.

Vicky is charmed by the man and excited by the danger and spontaneity, and she goes with Cristina following behind to make sure she’s okay. While there things don’t quite go to plan, and both women end up finding themselves falling for this mysterious man, and to complicate the story his ex-wife, played by Penélope Cruz, a rather unhinged woman, is soon to appear back on the scene.

TheFilm.pngThe first thing that caught me about the film was the inane voice over that does little to raise interest in the people and events. I was surprised at how superfluous it actually was. It told us things that were clear by just watching the scenes, and moments that could have so easily been explained by just showing them on screen rather than talking about them, or talking about them and showing them as seemed to happen a number of times.

I can't tell you how odd it felt to watch the film with the voice over, it tried to introduce us to the characters and help us into the story, but it grated with every word and didn't sit well with the overall style whatsoever.

Actually there was a purpose that the voice over served, and that was to pull together the disjointed scenes at the beginning and end of the film, scenes that felt like they had been edited together quickly and just didn't quite work.

That's a feeling that I had later on in the film too, for there were a couple of scenes that looked as though they needed re-shot but just weren't for whatever reason. These were mainly around the focusing on the main characters, something I noticed going awry three times. As the characters talked in the near foreground the camera focussed on the background immediately behind them and not the characters talking at the front. Now that was odd.

There were some good points though, the story is an interesting one, and when Penélope Cruz appears Javier Bardem really does come to life and his character begins to really get some strong moments, but it's Cruz that steals the best performance in the film, her unhinged character is the most emotional and interesting amongst them.

Before this moment the characters are there and the story is playing out, and you find it hard to connect with any of them, to find anything that could bring you closer to them and feel for them. Really they are a bunch of unlikeable characters doing semi-unlikeable, or just not likeable things.

Rebecca Hall gets a few stronger moments as her character begins to struggle with the idea of who she's marrying and the different kind of attraction she's having for Bardem's character, but it doesn't feel properly explored, and we see this a lot in the film. We're treated to what happens, or has happened, and we just don't get a chance to fully explore it.

Another part I felt was a little untouched was the father and the relationship that he had with his son, again something that hinted at more but the story just moved on across him.

Scarlett Johansson was good but there really wasn't that much for her to get into, except some of the moments playing off of the emotionally charged couple of Cruz and Bardem. She, like her character, struggled with trying to connect and be a little more like them, struggling to fit in, and so she seems a little emotionless and awkward.

There was also the character played by Patricia Clarkson, another great and beautiful actress who had an interesting role but was left after just skimming the surface. Her relationship with her husband foretells a lot of what Hall's character could come to expect in later life. However apart from a few scenes of the two starting from the realisation of her unhappiness through the discussions of what to do and to the settling with what they have, the film doesn't really let us explore their relationship with each other or their partners.

You can see the trend here, I felt disconnected from the film and that it just glossed over the characters and events with some moments where we get a deeper hint of something interesting.

The ending isn't that satisfying either, and I don't mean that it didn't end the way I had hoped, story wise it's an interesting ending, but again it just washes over you and you'll suddenly be hearing that terrible voice over man again and wondering what he's on about.

It does feel that the film was far from finished and thrown together in the editing room doing as much as possible to save it.

It's a real shame though because, like the painter character that Bardem plays, Woody Allen has all the most luscious paints to hand, he just can't make them into anything coherent or worthwhile. It's the actors and their charismatic performances and chemistry together that brings this film up from being terrible.

Similar thing for the picture as to the audio, and indeed the film, there's nothing that really stands out other than the actors themselves. That's not entirely fair though, the picture does look pretty good particularly during darker scenes or showing off some of the lovely Spanish locations. However focus issues are pretty unforgivable.

Audio.pngDolby Digital Stereo
Nothing exciting to point out about the audio other than it's there.

Yes it’s hard to believe in this day and age but there is nothing extra on this DVD. Hopefully the region one DVD I was sent is to change for the international version, but the way it is presented here we’re going to see nothing extra on the disc.

Overall.pngIf this were just the film I was rating it would be a three out of five, clearly getting one of those points just for the actors and their charismatic performances, but this is for the DVD too, and that is seriously lacking in anything other than the film and a slapped on menu.

I am unsure that even Woody Allen fans are going to like this as I feel it lacks the sharpness, wit and likeability from the dialogue and characters. A poor film and DVD offering that is worth missing.

Buy or rent on DVD from LOVEFiLM
Buy on DVD or Blu-ray from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com
UK IMDB Film Details



I actually kind of liked this one but I tend to be a Woody Allen fan. I will say though, that voice over was annoying, intrusive, bland and unnecessary. I totally now have a crush on Rebecca Hall after seeing this movie though.

Also, I think the reason that there are no extras is because Woody Allen doesn't like putting extras on DVDs. He believes that the movie should stand on its own and that show behind the scenes stuff ruins the magic of the film. I don't necessarily agree with that, but I think that is why the DVD doesn't include extras.

Well I have to agree on the Rebecca Hall crush, and I get to meet her at the BAFTA's, here's hoping!

I have to say if Allen doesn't believe in giving anything on DVD apart from the film then you have to wonder if he shouldn't be delivering films on that medium, or if he does then he should be reducing the price something rotten. Bet you he likes the profits though.

Rick, Rebecca is currently in Brooklyn for The Bridge Project, she is starring in two plays, Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale and Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard - you might want to pay New York a visit and watch her live!

Thanks Simone, I let a few people in the competition pen on the red carpet know that too!


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