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Film / Vicky Cristina Barcelona

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Vicky Cristina Barcelona is a 2008 movie by Woody Allen, centered around the experiences of two young women in Barcelona. Vicky (Rebecca Hall) and Cristina (Scarlett Johansson) travel to Barcelona for the summer so that Vicky can work on her dissertation on the culture of Catalonia. They are hosted by friends of Vicky's family, Mark and Judy. One day, at an art gallery, Cristina notices a man and asks Judy about him. She tells them he is Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem), a painter rumored to have had a stormy, and possibly violent, relationship with his ex-wife María Elena (Penélope Cruz) which ended in divorce. Later that night, the two happen to have dinner at the same restaurant as Juan Antonio, who walks over to them, introduces himself, and invites them to spend the weekend with him in the small town of Oviedo. Vicky is repulsed by his boldness, but Cristina is intrigued, so they go. This decision results in experiences that cause both of them to re-examine their own lives and commitments.

It was well reviewed and many critics declared it a return to form for Allen, who, after making a series of classic romantic comedies earlier in his career, had not had much critical success in that genre in recent years. Notable for lots of Scenery Porn of the beautiful Catalan countryside and having a quite provocative storyline touching on controversial and unfamiliar subjects such as Polyamory as well as familiar ones like passion and commitment. Penelope Cruz won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.

This movie provides examples of:

  • Ambiguously Bi: Cristina, who enjoyed kissing Maria Elena although she rejects the label of bisexual.
  • Ax-Crazy: María Elena, though she seems to have enough restraint to stop short of (lethal) violence.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Juan Antonio and Vicky.
  • Betty and Veronica:
    • Gender flipped with Vicky being torn between Doug (Betty) and Juan Antonio (Veronica).
    • To a lesser extent, Cristina is a Veronica while Vicky is a Betty, although the two of them never compete for Juan Antonio at the same time
  • Bisexual Love Triangle: Between Cristina, her lover Juan Antonio and his ex-wife Maria Elena.
  • Brainy Brunette: Vicky.
  • Clingy Jealous Girl: María Elena is this at first to Cristina, but eventually they settle into a threesome with Juan Antonio
  • Color Wash: Everything in this movie looks orange.
  • Commitment Issues: A central focus of the film is the characters' issues with this.
  • Cut Himself Shaving: Vicky tells her husband that she is going to lunch with her professor, when she is actually going to Juan Antonio's house. While she's there, María Elena shows up with a gun and ends up shooting Vicky in the hand. She tells her husband that her "professor" was showing her the gun when it accidentally went off.
  • Dirty Old Man: Juan Antonio's elderly father is just as fond of the ladies as he is, though this isn't played as much for Squick as it usually is. This is a Woody Allen film, after all.
  • Disposable Fiancé: Doug. Subverted however in that Vicky does end up marrying him in the end.
  • Double Standard: If the characters' genders were reversed, the main characters' commitment issues, infidelities, and deceptions wouldn't be so sympathetic. Another example: Vicky tells Juan Antonio that he might have deserved it when his ex-wife stabbed him. It's hard to imagine a man the audience is supposed to sympathize with getting away with saying that to a woman who'd just been stabbed by her crazy ex-husband. Although in the context of the story, all Vicky had heard at that point was that Juan Antonio had been married to a woman and that it had ended with violence, which, she assumes, meant that he had beaten her. This is of course an in-universe example of a Double Standard, however.
  • Ethical Slut: Juan Antonio.
  • Fauxlosophic Narration: Throughout the film, Vicky and Cristina contemplate the meaning of love many, many times to both each other and to almost every other character they converse with. They never come to any conclusions. See "Shaggy Dog" Story below.
  • Good Bad Girl: Cristina
  • The Hedonist: Juan Antonio, who seems to do nothing but eat gourmet food, hang out in beautiful locations, and sleep with gorgeous women. Somewhat deconstructed, in that his life still has plenty of problems and emotional drama, some of it caused by his lifestyle.
  • Hot-Blooded: María Elena
  • Informed Ability: Cristina is supposed to be a gifted photographer, but none of the photos of hers which the audience sees are particularly striking or memorable.
    • On another matter, it becomes significantly harder to take Vicky seriously as a researcher of Spain (even if it's only Catalonia) once she admits that she's never once heard of the town of Oviedo, a capital of autonomous community of Asturia and a pretty significant town in Spanish history.
  • If It's You, It's Okay: It's possible to see Christina's romance with Maria Elena as an example of this, since when she's asked if she's bisexual, she doesn't say yes.
  • Karma Houdini: Vicky, who gets away with cheating on Doug, and María Elena, who nearly kills someone in one of her jealous rages without any sort of repercussions.
  • Latin Lover: Juan Antonio and María Elena.
  • Love Triangle: Cristina/Juan Antonio/María Elena.
    • Also Doug/Vicky/Juan Antonio.
  • Musicalis Interruptus: with a side of Painting the Fourth Wall. There's three or four songs that are used repeatedly as background music for the film. They are always Cut Short by scene transitions. There's only one exception, only one time when a song actually reaches a climax: when, near the end of the film, Vicky runs into Juan Antonio at the farewell party, signalling that the couple's unfinished business is finally about to be resolved.
  • Narrator: voiced by Christopher Evan Welch. Explicitly an outside observer of the events of the movie.
  • No Bisexuals: Averted with Maria Elena and Cristina who share a romance with both Juan Antonio and each other.
  • Polyamory: Juan Antonio, Cristina, and María Elena try this for awhile, but it doesn't work out in the end, because despite her lack of inhibitions Cristina decides it isn't for her.
  • Protagonist Title: Two friends Vicky and Cristina go on holiday together in Barcelona.
  • Reality Has No Subtitles: Half of the movie is this, i.e. whenever Cristina and/or Vicky are around people who don't speak English.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Cristina, who is passionate, impulsive, and unrestrained in following her romantic and sexual impulses, is the red oni. Vicky, whose approach to love is grounded and pragmatic, is the blue one.
  • Red Right Hand: María Elena tells Juan Antonio that she doesn't trust Cristina because her eyes are of different colors.
  • Scenery Porn: Oh yes. The Catalan countryside is as big a presence as any of the characters.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: At the end of the movie, Juan Antonio and María Elena are back in their tempestuous and volatile relationship, and Vicky and Cristina return to America exactly as they left it. The narrator even explicitly states that neither changed as an individual as a result of the whole adventure.
  • Shoot the Money: The Catalan countryside is as big a presence as any of the characters.
  • Translation by Volume: Vicky tries to speak loudly and slowly in as she's initially not very good at speaking Spanish or Catala.
  • Threesome Subtext: Though it's not really subtext.
  • The Unfair Sex: See Double Standard, above.
  • Walk and Talk: The scene with Vicky, Cristina and Doug walking down a street of Barcelona discussing the topic of Polyamory.