From watching the trailer for VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA, one might never have guessed that it was actually an offering from prolific auteur Woody Allen. There's no New York, no sight of Allen, and his trademark wit was nowhere to be seen. But this film--with its talented cast, sharp dialogue, and excellent use of gorgeous locations--marks Allen's best comic work since 1994's BULLETS OVER BROADWAY. Vicky (Rebecca Hall) and Cristina (Scarlett Johansson) are American best friends who have the luck of spending several summer months in the Spanish city of the title. Though the pair is inseparable, they clash over love: Vicky is engaged to the trustworthy Doug (Chris Messina), while Cristina is forever in search of new experiences and passions. When a fiery Spanish painter named Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem) proposes that the three fly off to Oviedo for the weekend with the goal of making love, the women are divided, but they both eventually agree to the trip. After unexpected events in Oviedo, they return to Barcelona where Juan Antonio's obsessive ex-wife (Pnlope Cruz) enters the picture.
As the rule-bound Vicky, Hall--who has been largely unknown to American audiences before this film--gives a wonderfully witty performance that keeps pace with her more famous costars. Those who have only seen Bardem in his Oscar-winning role as the cold killer in NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN will be surprised by his sexy turn in VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA. Though it's often women who steam up the screen, Bardem seduces Vicky, Cristina, and the audience with such abandon that it's tough for everyone involved not to emerge a little bit smitten. Johansson, Allen's new-millennium muse, is the director's mouthpiece--she's consistently funny and more than a little neurotic, and you can hear Allen's voice in her performance.
Academy Awards Best Supporting Actress 2009