‘Vicky Cristina Barcelona’: Magical Realism for the Whole Family

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Vicky Cristina Barcelona Movie Poster

I’m only kidding of course. While Woody Allen’s newest film is still not quite accessible to a G-rated audience, Vicky Cristina Barcelona could actually be the perfect family film when released on DVD. Your father will love it because of the hippie inspired steamy, dark room exhibition of free love between the cast’s two leading ladies. Your mother will love it because it tackles feminist sentimentalities while simultaneously exploring the what-if possibilities of torrid love affairs that run rampant in all of Amanda Quick’s novels. Your 13-year-old brother will inevitably love it for the same reason your father did. And your 17-year-old sister will love it as well, having just entered her first all-important coming of age photography phase captured elegantly in the film by Scarlett Johansson. (Remind you of any other films starring ScoJo as a young woman experiencing existential crisis in a foreign land?)  This movie truly has it all. Penelope Cruz, Scarlett Johansson, threesomes, and enough what-does-it-all-mean ponderings to make any recent college graduate (Lifting Fog staff) somehow identify with a story born out of the mind of a writer in his early 70s.

Barcelona made me laugh, quite hard actually, and Cruz delivers an outstanding performance, more or less outshining the rest. The absence of Allen himself made it that much more enjoyable for me as well, as I’m proud to be too young to remember the days when Manhattan and Annie Hall required his starring role to get his point across. I felt for the characters and blindly followed their anti-pragmatical whims blindly through each scene. The end, like the love scenes short and sweet, left a satisfying taste in my mouth and I couldn’t help but smile, enjoying the highs and lows with the characters like any good movie should do.

What struck me even beyond my lust to return to Spain to relive the life of fantasy and freedom I enjoyed for a semester, as these characters do, was the story’s dramatic elements as they pertain to a traditionally Latin American category of literature. I’m talking of course about the undercurrent of many Latin American stories and writers like Laura Esquivel (Como agua para chocolate) and Gabriel García Márquez (Cien años de soledad): magical realism. Vicky Cristina “coincidentally” managed to capture an astonishing amount of elements of this category of the Latin American tradition including, but not limited to:

  1. Narration (Christopher Evan Welch) provided by an outside party for exposition
  2. Barcelona serving as an essential part of the feel, structure, and spirit of the film
  3. The fantastical existing alongside the realistic; Javier Bardem was sleeping with, not 1, but 2 of the most alluring actresses in the recent past!

Spanish Lit 406 aside, the film is a wonderfully dramatic yet light, sea salt-kissed breeze (Editor’s note: Steve, I hate you) blowing through the wreckage of a few somewhat larger films that opened this summer. Estoy bastante seguro that it will be a first for many family members when they get around to seeing it.

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9 Responses to “‘Vicky Cristina Barcelona’: Magical Realism for the Whole Family”

  1. JES Says:

    Trolling for the bilingual masses, I see.

    I’m afraid that I’m so old that I still believe when WA stopped appearing in his films, they started to go downhill. Which is a problem, because once he seemed locked in a downward spiral I stopped seeing his movies. Which is also a problem because he’s obviously figured out how to write and direct films in which he (and/or Manhattan) isn’t the star.

    Interesting to imagine this material in, say, Guillermo Del Toro’s hands instead of Woody’s…

  2. JES Says:

    P.S. Of course, I meant “trolling” in the sense of fly-casting, not exhibiting troll-like behavior.

  3. Gunky Slug Says:

    JES: or like trolling for Scarlett or Penelope? Which we should all congratulate WA for the wisdom of pairing together, if for no other reason. I mean – even if it were not a good film – on DVD we could just watch it on mute.

  4. DJ Steve Says:

    Exaccccctttly

  5. Assaugs Says:

    hm… really like it..

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