Because of its irritatingly semi-romantic but perfectly amusing unfolding, I have watched this film about three times in the last couple of weeks. The actors are stellar presences on screen but their portrayals of their respective characters in this wickedly funny flick are something I find very humorous yet engaging. Vicky Cristina Barcelona is a movie for keeps.
Two American girl friends, Vicky (Rebecca Hall) and Cristina (Scarlett Johansson) decide to spend their summer in Barcelona. Vicky is a girl who is traditional and committed in her ways of love towards one person while Cristina is spontaneous and is willing to accept that suffering is a part of the neverending quest for love. Vicky is spurred by the love of Gaudi's art to pursue her studies of Catalan identity in Barcelona while Cristina is just out of a relationship and is in Spain to vacation...cruising, not knowing what she wants in life.
At an art exhibition they come across an artist, a painter, Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem) who is not only well-known for his paintings but more so for his messy divorce with his ex-wife Maria Elena (Penelope Cruz) which almost cost him his life too. The girls' interest in him was palpable even when they had never spoken to him. During dinner the two are approached by Juan Antonio and invited to come to Oviedo to sightsee, wine and dine and make love. Vicky finds his blunt approach to be atrocious while Cristina thinks his no-bullshit approach to be very acceptable.
Meeting the painter and spending time with him in Oviedo totally changes their lives. He was passionate about many things, and very very adept at dealing with beautiful women. Vicky, who at first skeptical towards Juan Antonio, begins to question her own beliefs and even finds herself emotionally attached to Juan Antonio. It was rather strange that it was she who first had sex with Juan Antonio as circumstance was rather unfavorable to Cristina dealing her with an ulcer when she was about to have sex with the Spanish painter.
When they come back to Barcelona Cristina, though, eventually gets around to dating Juan Antonio and they become an item. She also becomes attached to Maria Elena who after another suicidal episode has been taken in by Juan Antonio in the comfort of the home she used to share with him. The attachment between the two women becomes very physical and the three of them begin to share a rather mutual sexual relationship. When Cristina confides this phenomena to Vicky, Vicky suddenly finds her attachment to Juan Antonio, which she had been trying to subdue, resurface again.
The end of the story sees acceptance in the end at the cards fate has dealt them. Vicky accepts that she is destined to have a more traditional path of love and commitment with her fiance, Doug, while Cristina is as aimless as ever, after she has left the turmoil of Juan Antonio and Maria Elena.
I love movies like this which are have an itch to them. This itch is there because it wants us to pull for something to happen and yet it never does. I wanted Juan Antonio to sweep Vicky away on her feet but it doesn't happen and this immortalizes the movie. Penelope Cruz' acting, which by the way won her an Oscar best Supporting actress award, is just lunacy beyond comprehension which also serves as fodder for those hungering for comedy. Her Spanish and English cross-yakkings are hilarious and yet natural.
Somehow I could really connect with Vicky because although she tries to defy convention, she is held back in place by her own beliefs. She finds herself guilty whenever she does things which are so not her. She is torn inside because she knows she wants to do something but it is contradictory to the principles she hold in life.
I enjoyed the movie immensely for many things and more. It is a light comedy which tackles the emotional struggles many people have which they try to downplay because they think they are in control of their own lives but they helplessly know they're not. The realities of social acceptance and emotional freedom are illustrated in a rather blunt way in this movie which makes it a guaranteed fun watch.
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