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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Vicki Cristina Barcelona

Woody Allen has only gotten creepier with age. His obsession with sex was funny when he was making movies thirty years ago but now that he is in his seventies it just seems dirty. Not that septuagenarians shouldn’t have active sex lives, but Woody has now made three movies with twenty three year old Scarlett Johansson as the focus of his camera lens, and each has gotten progressively more explicitly about what Ms. Johansson’s character is doing in the horizontal position. Of course, this wouldn’t be quite so downright nasty if we hadn’t all had to live through the very public Soon-Yi affair several years back that made Woody look like a complete sleaze since he was essentially shtupping his adopted daughter in the home he shared with Mia Farrow as his common-law wife. At least he eventually married his little girl once he shed her adoptive mom, but along the way it took a toll on his public image, and, still, his obsession with young women in movies like Vicki Cristina Barcelona isn’t helping.

I saw Vicki
Cristina Barcelona a couple of days ago at the Essex Cinemas in a theater that was nearly empty except for a few men scattered in singles about in the darkest corners of the room. I didn’t get close enough to any to notice if they were holding rain coats on their laps, but the whole ambiance had “that kind of feeling” if you know what I mean. Vicki Cristina Barcelona certainly has the skimpiest of plotlines to support a serious movie. The only thing missing to make this a “real” porn flick (other than full frontal nudity) is the obligatory pizza delivery guy, but other than that everything is in place. Vicki (Rebecca Hall; The Prestige) and Cristina (Scarlett Johansson; The Nanny Diaries) are two girlfriends on a summer vacation in Spain, where they meet a swarthy painter named Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem; Love in the Time of Cholera), whom they both become infatuated with, and (surprise!) sex ensues. Since Vicki is engaged and rolling in guilt, she keeps her splendor in the grass a secret and leaves the door open for Cristina to move in (literally) with Juan Antonio.

More sex ensues. Juan Antonio’s ex-wife, the gloriously gorgeous Penélope Cruz (Elegy) as Maria Elena shows up and she moves in too. You can guess what happens next, but I’ll give you one hint. It involves s*x. Yada yada yada.

Personally, I’m a great fan of sex, and I’d have no problem watching Scarlett and Penélope fondling one another except that you know it’s not for any other reason than because it gives Woody a woodie. I picture him standing behind the camera drooling during the filming of that scene and it makes my skin crawl. I don’t want to think about pepaw getting off on two chicks young enough to be his great-grandchildren. Ewww.

Vicki Cristina Barcelona isn’t a bad movie. Javier Bardem proves he can be just as romantic as he was threatening in No Country for Old Men. Rebecca Hall is kind of amusing because whether she realizes it or not she rattles off her dialogue sounding exactly like a female Woody Allen, which is startling and vaguely disturbing at the same time, and the always delicious Patricia Clarkson (Phoebe in Wonderland) shows up in a small role as a long-married ex-pat named Judy, whose husband is one of the corporate bigwigs Vicki’s fiancé (Chris Messina; Made of Honor) yearns to emulate. Judy’s earnest attempts to convey her desperation to Vicki are sad but it is also frustrating because she is just as guilty of pushing Vicki toward the marriage by continuing in her own duties as the “good wife” and “hostess” she is expected to be by assisting the bride in preparing for the big event.

The ladies who lunch (on each other) Johansson and Cruz are what they are, beautiful and utilitarian, just what they are expected to be in this whatever it is ~ Romance? Comedy? Drama? Travelogue? Unfortunately, it might as well be classified as a war movie because, more than anything else, Vicki Cristina Barcelona, for all its good traits and interesting performances, has proven a complete bomb at the box office. Maybe it’s time for Woody to spend his golden years enjoying time at a daycare center somewhere and leave movie-making to the grown-ups.

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