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Scarlett Johannson, Allen's latest muse, returns to the center of the iconic writer's fold, this time playing Cristina, an aspiring filmmaker who travels to Spain for the summer. She is accompanied by her much more sensible best friend, Vicky, played by the far superior actress, Rebecca Hall. The two girls meet an artist, Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem), who promptly seduces them and invites them for a weekend of art, sensuality, and sex-filled depravity. But, as far as Juan Antonio is concerned, there is nothing depraved about it. "Life is short, life is full of pain, why not do something special?" he asks the girls.
While Vicky initially balks at the plan, Cristina is immediately enchanted. In the end, they both end up coming along. Cristina begins a torrid relationship with Juan Antonio, and he fosters her burgeoning artistic tendencies. Around the same time, he seduces Vicky as well. All of a sudden, Penelope Cruz arrives as a storm named Maria Elena, Juan Antonio's ex-wife, who he says "put a knife" in him. Things get progressively more interesting from there.
Though the film is full of Allen's signature dialogue, which sometimes sounds strained coming from the mouths of actresses putting on overly-neurotic airs, Vicky Cristina Barcelona is easily one of his best films of late. Sure, we all pine for his late-1970s comedies or early-'90s dramas, but in recent years Allen has shown another side to himself. The breezy dialogue, the exotic locations, the unencumbered Bohemian lifestyle that the characters in this film lead are just the surface elements. Beneath all this lie the same neuroses, hang-ups, and inhibitions that are part of the human condition. Allen knows this more than anyone, and is a modern master at conveying it through the medium of film.
Jonah Flicker writes, lives, drinks, eats, and consumes music in New York, via Los Angeles. He once received a fortune in a fortune cookie that stated the following: "Soon, a visitor shall delight you." He's still waiting.
See other articles by Jonah Flicker.
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