Vicky, Cristina, Barcelona: Penelope shines
The word is out that Penelope Cruz's performance in the latest Woody Allen film could merit an Oscar nomination
Cast: Javier Bardem, Penélope Cruz, Scarlett Johansson, Chris Messina
Director: Woody Allen
Screenplay: Woody Allen
Penélope Cruz was born to play dysfunctional characters and to act in Spanish. Correction: Or to act in English but playing a Spaniard. Particularly, a grumpy Spaniard who refuses at all cost to speak English in front of Scarlett Johansson, Bardem's most recent conquest in the plot of Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Vicky Cristina Barcelona–the title couldn't be worse– will be the first film in English that will show audiences outside of Spain why Penélope is a real actress.
Her presence in the film –long after story takes off– is enough to leave you with a dumb smile from ear to ear, and she is irresistibly charming for all of her character's craziness: a possessive, manic-depressive ex-girlfriend with suicidal and criminal inclinations but with a great sense of humor.
The Spanish actress hooks up for the fourth time with Javier Bardem (as a couple this is their second adventure together since Jamón, Jamón) to give life to María Elena, the ex of Juan Antonio (Bardem is also irresistible) who will bring misery to the life of this bon-viveur whose desire, at any cost, is to sleep with two American tourists in Barcelona: Vicky (Hall) and Cristina (Johansson).
It's a relief that, despite its title, Vicky Cristina Barcelona is Woody Allen's best comedy since Everyone Says I Love You, and his best achievement since the thriller Match Point.
With keen humor and amusing sexual situations, Allen succeeds in reviving the spark of his glorious era with Diane Keaton (Annie Hall), to the point that there is no doubt that after Mia Farrow, Keaton and his brief stint with Diane Wiest, Woody Allen has found his new inspirational muse in Scarlett Johansson.
The fact that Allen is leaving behind his jazz, and is traveling to Spain to film another movie (after another brief soiree with London) is proof that the filmmaker, 72, seems to be relishing in a new style as he makes his usual one movie every year.
Legend says that Allen makes one good film and then two bad ones. This may be true, but after Match Point and two unforgettable films in between (Scoop and Cassandra's Dream), Vicky Cristina Barcelona is one of the best films in this extremely lackluster year in film.
And who plays Allen's alter ego in this movie? …Yep. Yes indeed. None other than Penélope, ¡olé!.