Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Film review:
Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008)

I have to confess I haven't kept much of an eye on Woody Allen's career since Hannah and Her Sisters back in 1986. Mighty Aphrodite (1994) proved mildly diverting, as did Bullets Over Broadway (1995), but neither displayed the invention or self-assurance of Annie Hall (1977), Sleeper (1973) or even Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (1972). The indifferent reviews which greeted his more recent projects scarcely had me running to the box office, but word of mouth on Vicky Cristina Barcelona hinted that Allen might be back on form.

Ah, if only. Despite the best efforts of his cast (headed by Rebecca Hall and Scarlett Johansson as the eponymous Americans adrift in Catelonia, Javier Bardem as the fiery artist who beds them both and Penelope Cruz as his equally tempestuous ex-wife), this is a lightweight tale, its limitations underlined by the invasive narration which Allen presumably hopes will paper over the cracks in both plot and characterisation.

A stray thought hit me as I sat in the cinema tonight: had this film been set in a sinkhole housing estate, with boringly mundane protagonists rather than artists and poets, would we actually give a toss about their bedhopping antics? Romantic locations do not a romance make, nor the occasional witty line a winning comedy.

[First published on LiveJournal, February 2009]

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