| The marquee title of this romantic comedy sets up the light and breezy fun in the latest outing from brilliant 72-year-old writer/director Woody Allen.
The film is about two American girlfriends, Vicky (gorgeous brunette Rebecca Hall from “The Prestige”) and Cristina (blonde bombshell Scarlett Johansson last seen in “The Other Boleyn Girl”), who spend the months of July and August in Barcelona. They meet a hot, sexy and aggressive painter (Oscar winner Javier Bardem from “No Country for Old Men”) who wants to make love with both of them.
Vicky is engaged and skeptical about a fling with a total stranger. Cristina is free-spirited, impulsive and ready to be swept off her feet for a seductive roll in the hay. The wild card in this romantic triangle is the painter’s fiery and delusional ex-wife, Maria Elena (Penélope Cruz), who whips up a whirlwind of chaos and disorder.
Allen flirts with the audience in this moral fable of fantasy wish fulfillment. Nobody creates more interesting characters or writes wittier dialogue infused with as much neurotic anxiety. Allen is back in top form with an eye and ear for the complexities inherent in adult relationships.
The mature themes make for a great date movie. The movie shows that women have similar erotic dreams and desires as men with regard to sex, romance and love. The European view of life is contrasted with a puritanical American upbringing.
Allen sticks to facial close-ups during the sex scenes and wisely leaves the more intimate details to your imagination.
An unseen narrator adds immensely to the enjoyment and moves the story along with both knowing exposition and the inner thoughts of the main players. Cruz is outstanding and deserves award recognition for her supporting role. She changes the dynamics whenever she appears in a scene. Her interaction with Bardem adds a delicious combustible ingredient.
The humor is escalated every time Bardem tells her to speak English in front of the Americans rather than her native tongue.
British thespian Hall distinguishes herself as the sensible and responsible individual. She is Woody incarnate in her brutally frank remarks dripping with sarcasm and the way she conveys jealousy.
The Spanish scenery and guitar-driven musical score add to the touristy mood of this adventurous summer vacation. The movie is skillfully edited and flies by with a 96-minute running time. Your pleasure is guaranteed from this sweet gem from a revered master filmmaker.
Partially in Spanish with English subtitles.
Keith Cohen, "The Movie Guy"