Melancholy romantic drama about two American women on holiday. They soon meet an artist who invites them to vacation with him for the weekend. After a trio of films in London, Allen continues his European fascination with this story set in Spain. Despite the beautiful location shooting, this is essentially your standard issue Woody Allen tale of neurotic New Yorkers moaning and groaning about relationships. His ideas about love are oddly misanthropic. Vicky and Christina as tourists act like spoiled, rich American brats taken in by the first charismatic lothario that seduces them. Divorced painter Juan Antonio Gonzalo’s mantra? “Only unfulfilled love can be romantic”. That is to say, only the excitement of the chase is passionate, specifically the process of falling in love. He’s at the center of a Casanova fantasy that believes any woman’s depression can be undone by a good roll in the hay. Yet, these women don’t even seem to know what they want and that’s the point.
The performances are indeed expressive. As always, the dialogue is natural and it flows. Scarlett Johansson, in her 3rd effort with Woody, is capable as the shallow, free-spirited Christina. Also memorable is Rebecca Hall as the supposedly conventional Vicky. Given her conspicuous absence on the movie posters, she surprisingly has the single largest role. Although both of their principles (or lack of them) feel genuine, it doesn’t make them any less emotionally weak. They’re pretty delusional. For all the recognition lavished on Penelope Cruz, she makes her first appearance well into the second half of the picture. For once, she’s allowed to speak Spanish in an American production, and she’s all the better for it. To her credit, she doesn’t fit your typical Woody Allen character, but she does come across as a bit of a madwoman.
You may be captivated by the chronicle’s scenic charms, particularly if attending an outdoor Spanish guitar concert at night is your idea of heaven. I admit the celebration of Spanish culture is intoxicating. Curiously, this became Woody’s biggest hit since Hannah and her Sisters, slightly out-earning the far superior Match Point. In the face of glaring flaws, Vicky Cristina Barcelona remains an interesting, albeit pessimistic critique on love.