'Vicky Cristina Barcelona': For the Woody Allen fan!
You should hate these people, really, these smug American yuppies chatting gaily about golf, tennis and boating over red wine on a sun-splashed Spanish afternoon. You're also free to abhor the painters, poets and musicians who populate Barcelona and spend their bohemian days idly debating the merits of love and art -- when they're not wrapped up in making them both, that is.
Somehow, Woody Allen makes us not just tolerate them but find ourselves engaged in their adventures in 'Vicky Cristina Barcelona', his strongest film in quite a while. He seems freer here, more comfortable in his rhythm and less anxious to prove himself in a foreign land. It's an easy European romp, though it's surely superior to Allen's recent trilogy of London-based movies, 'Match Point','Scoop' and 'Cassandra's Dream'. But it's also tinged with melancholy, letting us know Allen isn't just mocking his characters but feeling a certain amount of sympathy for them in their confusion, which inevitably evokes a similar response from his audience.
What's fascinating is the juxtaposition he's created here: In obviously stilted, overly literary tones, his narrator describes his characters' every action and emotion, and yet they themselves consistently act in impulsive, contradictory ways. These are civilized people, behaving badly but played straight by the actors, and that's the chief source of laughs.