Drive-By Movie Review: Vicky Cristina Barcelona

This is a review of the 2008 movie Vicky Cristina Barcelona starring Scarlett Johansson, Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz

Plot Summary: Two girlfriends on a summer holiday in Spain become enamored with the same painter, unaware that his ex-wife, with whom he has a tempestuous relationship, is about to re-enter the picture.

Me: Well, Honeybee, we’ve been off for two weeks from the business of reviewing movies.   Did you enjoy your vacation?

The Honeybee: The “business of reviewing movies?”     I think you need to get a grip – I didn’t realize we were getting paid for this.

Me: Oh brother, here we go again…

The Honeybee: But since you asked, I will say I did miss watching you pretending to be an A-list movie reviewer over the past two weeks.

Me: Thank you.   I think.

The Honeybee: What about you, did you enjoy your time off, Roger Ebert?

Me: Well, I am definitely refreshed and ready to roll again.   I also want to thank our kids, who I think did a great job filling in for us a couple weeks ago with their movie review of Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs.

The Honeybee: I thought they did too – they actually provided more insight than we ever do.

Me: You do realize, Honeybee, I am trying to build up some loyal readers who might find these reviews helpful when it comes time to select which DVDs to rent, and your disparaging comments aren’t really helping?

The Honeybee: Yeah.

Me: Good.   I’m glad.   So let’s move on.

The Honeybee: Why?   I’m really enjoying our talk, Honey.

Me: I know you are, that’s why we’re moving on.   So what did you think after seeing last night’s Woody Allen movie, Vicky Cristina Barcelona?

The Honeybee: Well, I’m not a big Woody Allen fan, but the premise of this movie seemed interesting.   Why don’t you give an overview?

Me: Okay, I think I will.   Vicky (Rebecca Hall) and Cristina (Scarlett Johansson) are best-friends who are spending their summer in Barcelona.   On the one hand there is Vicky, who happens to be a straight-laced, commitment-minded woman who is planning to be married in the Fall to a very boring but financially stable upper-crust country-club type played by Chris Messina.

The Honeybee: She was a little too stuffy, wasn’t she?

Me: Just a bit.   Then there is Cristina – your typical free-spirited vixen out looking for a little bit of fun.

The Honeybee: And the two of them end up meeting an egotistical artist, Jose Antonio…

Me: Juan.

The Honeybee: One? It was both of them.

Me: No, Juan.   His name is Juan Antonio.

The Honeybee: Whatever.   Juan Antonio immediately invites both of them for a weekend getaway in another part of the country to see some artwork and “make love.”   Can you believe that?

Me: No.   Of course, Cristina somehow convinces a very reluctant Vicky that it would be okay to accept the artist’s invitation.   By the way, Jose Antonio was played by Javier Bardem, who proves he can do comedy as well as drama.   This role is a big departure from his previous Oscar-winning role in No Country for Old Men.

The Honeybee: Juan.

Me: Huh?

The Honeybee: Juan Antonio.   You said “Jose.”

Me: I did?   Wow.   Anyway, Cristina ends up getting ill and Juan Antonio ends up spending the entire weekend breaking down Vicky’s defenses until he eventually wins her over and seduces her.   Of course, once they get back to Barcelona, the Lothario ends up dropping Vicky like a hot tamale and immediately starts up a relationship with Cristina.

The Honeybee: That’s when the film really goes off the deep end.   Jose Antonio’s fiery ex-wife, Maria Elena (Penelope Cruz), tries to commit suicide and so he takes her back – that’s when Cristina, Maria Elena and Jose all become lovers.   All the while, a jealous Vicky begins questioning her boring relationship with her fiancee.

Me: Juan.

The Honeybee: Huh?   Oh, what-ever!   Juan.   Jose.   Hose B.   Does it really matter?

Me: Apparently not to us.   Now although Cruz doesn’t enter until the midway point of the movie, I thought her portrayal of the tempestuous Maria Elena was absolutely awesome – a brilliant performance that essentially stole the show.

The Honeybee: You’re just saying that because you’ve got the hots for Latin ladies.

Me: True, I certainly can’t deny that – I married you, after all!   But I still think Penelope Cruz deserves an Oscar for this performance, don’t you?

The Honeybee: Maybe.   I will say I did like that most of the movie was filmed on-location in Barcelona.

Me: Me too.   Anyway, the rest of the movie focused on answering questions about the choices we make regarding love and life-commitments in general – is it better to break them off even when they don’t work out as originally planned?   And is the boredom that often accompanies stability a fair trade when compared to the freshness of a new love affair?

The Honeybee: Overall, I thought this was a pretty good movie!   I rate this as a “buy!”

Me: I agree, Honeybee.   This movie is a “buy.”   I thought Vicky Cristina Barcelona was a well-written movie, with a provocatively interesting storyline and some really terrific acting.   This is one movie that I don’t think will disappoint many people.

The Honeybee: The fact that this movie had a bunch of characters with such exaggerated personality flaws did make for a great story. I’m just glad, Len, you’re not egotistical like Jose Antonio.   That would be tough to live with.

Me: Juan.

The Honeybee:   Whatever.

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  1. 1

    Nona says

    Hi Len!
    I completelly agree with all you and Maria said on the review.
    I think Penelope Cruz acting as Maria Elena is her best performance ever!! She should win an Oscar for that!

    What about Barcelona, I must say it was quite chaotic while the movie was being filmed… But it’s some good publicity for the city!

    • 2


      And when you consider English is her second language, it really shows just how good an actress Penelope Cruz really is. And Barcelona looked beautiful – maybe I will be able to see it one day.

      Besos! :-)

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