Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Movies are about conflict. Without some sort of situation for the protagonist to struggle through, there
is no movie. This is generally apparent in film, in the most literal manner (i.e. Good Guy vs. Bad Guy),
yet sometimes this struggle is more subtly woven into the sub-context of the plot. “Vicky Cristina
Barcelona” has so much more working for it under the guise of what one would expect to be a run-of-
the mill romantic comedy that one is taken off guard when they experience the film's brilliance. This is
a Woody Allen film, and while he has been less than consistent since the start of the century, he has
shown he is still capable of crafting a genuinely significant film. (Many people view 2005's “Match
Point” as his best film).
“Vicky Cristina Barcelona” defies a number of cinematic conventions, and as a whole seems to defy a
single genre categorization. It seems to be billed as a comedy, yet it's not really that funny. It's closer, in
my opinion to a character-driven drama, but that still doesn't seem quite right. Regardless of its refusal
to be pigeon-holed into one genre, it's an incredible film, and completely enthralling from beginning to
Vicky (Rebecca Hall), Cristina (Scarlett Johansson) on vacation in Barcelona, meet charming Juan
Antonio (Javier Bardem). Against Vicky's wishes, the girls decide to spend the weekend with him in
Oviedo, despite his unexpected honesty about hoping to sleep with them both. The romance that ensues
between all characters involved, is both beautiful and completely entrancing.
What makes the film so amazing to me, is that there isn't so much of a plot, as there is a small story
(plot and story are different, people...), and simple and straight forward character development... and no
bad guy. The lack of a physical antagonist seems like it would be detrimental to the film, yet once
you're taken into the film, you realize that there would be no place for one. Each character is so
significant and deep, that they all feel like the central character. So, essentially... The film has three
protagonists. Conversely, the characters are so well developed, so multi-faceted, that they each function
as their own antagonist. Each mingles with the possibility of true love throughout the film, yet find it is
their own personal characteristics, their own conscious inhibitions that hold them back.
Now, it goes without saying that this film would be absolutely nothing without capable actors to tell the
story through their romantic interactions. As I've mentioned, everyone involved breathes so much
genuine life into their characters, that they all seem sympathetic despite some questionable actions.
Vicky attempts to deal with doubts regarding her impending marriage; Cristina is so concerned with not
knowing what she wants in life that she questions the undeniably beautiful relationships she's forged;
and Juan Antonio holds an admittedly undying love for an ex, despite the romance of another woman.
They are internally conflicted characters, all portrayed impeccably by actors who really make this film
what it is.
And therein lies the key... Films tell a story, and get the audience from point A to point B, or C, or Z,
whatever. Great films provide the audience with believable and sympathetic characters, who in turn tell
the story. I am of the opinion that characters are more important in the overall success of the film than
the plot. This is obviously debatable, but when it comes time for me to argue this point, I will use
“Vicky Cristina Barcelona” as my example.