18 March, 2009

well worth the wait

not the film, mind you, but the best review of Vicky Cristina Absolute Pants
courtesy of shortest indian

here it is in all its copy and pasted glory, with my fave bits (i.e. where i nodded in furious agreement and snarled in approval) annoyingly highlighted.

"So what can I say about this film....? Woody, you seem to have done it again....the hope, the anticipation, the desperate longing for a new film that was not utterly terrible, followed by disappointment, disillusionment and suicidal urges (well perhaps that's a slight exaggeration). I'm afraid to report that Vicky Christina Barcelona is the not the 'return to form' that it has been touted as in some of the film press. It is not a good film. I wouldn't go so far as to say that it was terrible but it is definitely not good. And perhaps these days 'not terrible' does count as a return to form for Woody.

VC Barcelona tells the story of two American women who spend a month in Spain and experience some of that European passion that apparently isn't to be found in the US. Christina is the archetypal wild child, with a 'if it don't hurt, it ain't love' world view, whereas Vicky is engaged to one of those dependable but dull-types. However, due to the poor characterisation it may well have been Vicky who was crazy one, I'm honestly not sure, so from now on they will be referred to as blonde girl and brunette girl. The girls meet a Spanish painter who whisks them away for a weekend in the country, blonde girl immediately has the hots for him whereas brunette girl is sensible and suspicious. However, for various reasons it's she who is seduced by, and falls in love with, him. However blonde girl remains oblivious to this and eventually shacks up with said painter, and later his slightly deranged wife in possibly the world's most unlikely menage a trois. Brunette girl meanwhile carries on being sensible. This is pretty much all that happens.
Now Woody Allen films are hardly famed for their fast-paced, action filled plots, but they did used to contain enough emotional insights and witty dialogue to easily sustain them. VC Barcelona does not. What you do get in an annoying voice-over from some random man, telling you what blonde girl and brunette girl think and feel about things as this is not particularly obvious from what they are saying or doing. There are also a couple of minor details in this film that somehow became immediately incredibly annoying:
a) Brunette girl is supposed to be doing a Masters degree in Catalan culture, but she doesn't speak Spanish or Catalan!!! That's going to be a challenge then isn't it?!? Somehow being shown around a restuarant kitchen by someone speaking a language she doesn't understand counts as research in Woody-world.

b) Javier Bardem constantly having to say/shout, 'Speak eenglis, speak eenglis in this house' to Penelope Cruz. I don't know why this annoyed me so much, it just did.

Maybe I'm being super-harsh about all this but this film did appear to be giant excuse to spend some time in Spain for some lovely dappled sunshine shots
and to have Penelope Cruz and Scarlett Johannson get off with each other. However despite the stilted script, the endless cliches, the lack of characterisation and missing plot, this was not a totally excreable film, merely very disappointing. Rebecca Hall makes a convincing American for a posh, English girl, Javier Bardem at least demonstrates his range by being the opposite of menacing in this role (although for a alleged lothario he somehow comes over as a bit of a bumbling prat), and Penelope Cruz does make a good job of scene stealing by either shouting in Spanish or being husky and alluring (I suspect the former appeals to Oscar voters).

I know that my disappointment with this film is strongly related to how much I loved Woody Allen as a teenager.
Discovering films he'd made when I was still a small child was a true delight, as was being able to share this with top pal F (I think this was one of the things that cemented our friendship). To now see him regularly churning out this type of pap is quite a bitter experience. I don't expect another Annie Hall, Sleeper or Play it Again Sam. I can understand that Woody might not be in a very comedy place right now. He might want to write about relationships in a different way, and that's fine too. But what I do expect in any film, let alone one written and directed by Woody Allen, is some sense of who the main characters actually are and why they do the things that they do. Any sense of this seems to have been missing from Woody's films for the past decade or so, resulting in work that lacks any connection with its audience and sometimes verges on the ridiculous.

I saw VC Barcelona around a week ago now, and I think my antipathy towards it has been increasing. I think this is because every time Woody makes another below-par film my memories of some of his best work and the times I spent watching them become very slightly tarnished, and that is something I really resent."

I conclude here.


Lady V said...

Agreed. Dreadfully disappointed. Oh Woody...

albeo said...

Couldn't have put it better.

TheFastestIndian said...

Awww- thank you fans, friends and friends of friends. I found myself telling someone how I much preferred Benjamin Button to VC Bar the other day, and it felt a bit wrong (but accurate).