29 August 2008

Review: Vicky Christina Barcelona

Genre: Comedy

O, Woody Allen! How long has it been since we've found happiness together? And that it should come so suddenly, so surprisingly?! How grand!
Truly, not since 1994's divine Bullets over Broadway has Mr. Allen delivered a screenplay so bountiful and jaunty as this, his latest, Vicky Christina Barcelona. Quick, quippy, capriciously sardonic in a way that paints classic self-doubting Allen humor in splashes of color and passion as bright and sensual as any of the many artworks and love-scenes that color the film's screen, the work vibrates with its own unique, Iberian vitality that reinvigorates even the tried and tired-growing "confused waif" character that Ms. Johansson seems so stuck on playing - sorry, Scarlett. Of course, Mr. Bardem and Ms. Cruz made no contestable match for her anyway, with their ferociously bidden duo of lovers, snarling indirected but nevertheless ardently: They two tear up the screen, as they tear at each other, and each is so charging to watch, that one cannot help but wonder why Scarlett could not show up herself a bit more, instead of shrinking back into Scoop (2006), her last collaboration with Mr. Allen. One cannot wish for all miracles, I suppose. Rebecca Hall was handy in her first major-film rôle and Patricia Clarkson is always a delight to see pop up in the pictures; the sex was neither gratuitous nor prudish and the voice-over narration a bold risk that pays off cleverly in many a punchline; & the action consistently moves well over the pulsing strumming of guitar chords that adds a rhythmic movement and depth to the work as a whole, as though it were - as it is - actually straining to achieve something more than just mellifluity out of its waxing and waning, undular efforts. As the tip-toeing high notes dance over the ergonomic works of Gaudí, Vicky and Christina search for their perfect fit - and thankfully, Mr. Allen may be a tailor.

Grade: A solid B.

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