When the closing credits rolled after Vicky Christina Barcelona, a man in the row behind me exclaimed,
“Gimme a break! I want a story. Come on Woody, I want a story.”
While I doubt the portly man knew Woody (Allen), he seemed to know even less about his films. His newest endeavor, starring Scarlett Johansson, Penelope Cruz, and Javier Bardem, has the signature Woody moves– love triangles and trysts and quirky characters. Moreover, everything and nothing happens at the same time.
The story begins in the beautiful, romantic, whimsical city of Barcelona, where two American tourists have come to live for the summer. The analytical and pragmatic Vicky (Rebecca Hall) and her best friend, the unpredictable Christina (Johansson) could not be more different. They meet Juan Antonio (Bardem), a local artist, who invites them for a weekend trip of sight-seeing and love-making. There, they learn of Juan Antonio’s ex-wife (Cruz), a passionate, yet volatile woman who’s not afraid to use knives and guns.
While there are plenty of good, solid actors in this film, Cruz shines. Her character is both crazy and lovable, beautiful and complete mess. She seems most comfortable in her native language, which soars through the film like a bat out of a hell.
I’ve been to Barcelona a few times in my life. It really is a city of possibility, and Woody brings that to the highest level. Sure, a complete stranger will fly you to a small, romantic town and then sweep you off your feet and in to bed. Sure, his crazy ex-wife will teach you to photograph like you never have before. Sure. With a background of Gaudi design and the bustling of a beautiful city, how could it not happen?
Woody Allen’s films often transcend the need for an epic ending, for a life-shattering turn of events. Sometimes, crazy stuff happens, and then other stuff happens. For the man in the audience, that wasn’t enough. But sometimes, that’s all there is.