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Movie Review

Vicky Cristina Barcelona

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for mature thematic material involving sexuality, and smoking.

Reviewed by: Jonathan Rodriguez
CONTRIBUTOR

Very Offensive
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults
Genre:
Comedy, Drama, Romance
Length:
1 hr. 36 min.
Year of Release:
2008
USA Release:
August 15, 2008 (692 theaters)
DVD release: January 27, 2009
Copyright, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) Copyright, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) Copyright, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) Copyright, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) Copyright, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) Copyright, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) Copyright, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) Copyright, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) Copyright, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) Copyright, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)

Should I save sex for marriage? Answer

How far is too far? What are the guidelines for dating relationships? Answer

What are the consequences of sexual immorality? Answer

Fornication

Sex, Love and Relationships
Learn how to make your love the best it can be. Christian answers to questions about sex, marriage, sexual addictions, and more. Valuable resources for Christian couples, singles and pastors.

Suicide, what does the Bible say? Answer

If a Christian commits suicide, will they go to Heaven? Answer

What’s wrong with being gay? Answer
Homosexual behavior versus the Bible: Are people born gay? Does homosexuality harm anyone? Is it anyone's business? Are homosexual and heterosexual relationships equally valid?

Featuring: Javier Bardem, Patricia Clarkson, Penélope Cruz, Kevin Dunn, Rebecca Hall, Scarlett Johansson, Chris Messina, Manel Barceló, Lloll Bertran, Josep Maria Domènech, Abel Folk, Lluís Homar, Joel Joan, Jaume Montané, Zak Orth, Julio Perillán, Carrie Preston, Mireia Ros, Sílvia Sabaté, Pablo Schreiber, Pilar Servent, Christopher Evan Welch
Director: Woody Allen
Producer: Letty Aronson, Bernat Elias, Charles H. Joffe, Javier Méndez, Helen Robin, Jack Rollins, Jaume Roures, Stephen Tenenbaum, Gareth Wiley
Distributor: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)

“Life is the ultimate work of art”

Woody Allen films are, generally speaking, an acquired taste. I know many people who hear his name and shudder—memories of movies they didn't like flooding back in to their minds. His movies recently almost have to be viewed in a certain order to fully appreciate his talent; one movie watched out of turn could likely turn you off from his movies altogether.

Frankly, “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” isn't for rookies to the Woody Allen experience. It's a pleasant, enjoyable film, but I can easily see how others would dislike this film a lot, and that has nothing to do with the film's content, which, sadly, should likely keep Christians away, also.

The film is about two very close friends, Vicky (Rebecca Hall) and Cristina (Scarlett Johansson) who jump at the opportunity to spend the summer staying with Vicky's relatives in Barcelona. They visit a local art gallery where Cristina can't take her eyes off of “the man in the red shirt.” She learns that he is a local painter, who gained notoriety for a nasty divorce from his artist wife, who tried to kill him. Or he tried to kill her. Nobody is really quite sure, and it doesn't matter to Cristina, who jumps at the opportunity to spend the weekend with the man in the red shirt, Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem).

Vicky reluctantly joins them, mostly to keep an eye on Cristina, who is infamous for picking the wrong guys. Juan Antonio wants them both, and he makes this very clear when he asks them both to join him in his bed. Vicky is appalled, Cristina intrigued, But, a bout of food poisoning puts Cristina out of commission for a few days, forcing Vicky (who is engaged to be married) to spend a few days sightseeing with a man she initially loathes.

I will not spoil the chain of events for those interested in seeing the film, but I will add that things get even more complicated when Juan Antonio's ex wife, Maria Elena (Penélope Cruz) shows up, after just being rescued from a suicide attempt.

The content of “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” is fairly typical for a Woody Allen film, with a little more sexual content than we have seen from him recently. There is some language, and various uses of the Lord's name in vain. Some comic violence is seen as Maria Elena goes crazy with a gun.

The main problem Christians will have with the film is the hedonistic ways the characters live. Each seems to live only for the moment—what is pleasing them at that particular time. Sure, each character learns a little something along the way, but the path it takes to get there is fairly crude. Each character seems to have sex with each other, either on screen or implied. Vicky and Cristina don't, but it seems like everyone else does. There are a few on screen sex scenes, mostly rolling around under covers. Cristina is seen after sex with a blanket barely covering anything. Later on, she is seen kissing Maria Elena, more than once, and it is explained that they, and Juan Antonio, have a very passionate love triangle that works for each of them.

Vicky is contemplating throwing away her happy, committed relationship for something fleeting. The characters in these movies make their decisions with no regard for future consequences, and God is most certainly not the center of their decision-making process.

So, how can I say I liked a movie like this? Well, I have a fondness for the way Woody Allen draws up his characters. He understands people in a way very few writers and directors do and puts them in situations that force real thoughts and reactions to events that are not all that typical. While Woody Allen may always allow his characters free reign to their lustful desires, he finds a very interesting way to end this film. I won't obviously get into it here, but the last sentence of this movie speaks volumes about how he may actually view these mindless flings.

I should also mention that the movie is heavily narrated, which may get on some people's nerves. I enjoyed it, because it almost felt like we were watching a storybook. However, even though I enjoyed the film, I cannot recommend this film to Christians based on content we frankly don't need to expose ourselves to.

Violence: Minor / Profanity: Moderate / Sex/Nudity: Heavy

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.


Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Comments below:
Positive
Neutral—I found this movie refreshing—it was different than most romantic movies that I've watched. I think it is nice to watch love stories unfold and to be able to identify what they are doing wrong. And say “Thank God I can learn from this.” This story shows how people can get so entangled in love, and how lust can overtake them. This movie is a great “Chick Flick.”
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 3
—Brittany, age 20 (USA)
Neutral
Neutral—I think your reviewer did an excellent and sensitive job of summarizing this movie. I liked it as a movie—meaning, the script was well written, the story bizarre but interesting, the characters well cast and well-defined. The color cinematography is atrocious, casting a stormy look to even the sunniest day, so there is very little color differentiation—everything seems to be some sort of brown or gold color. The story is a moral mess, which is why, like your reviewer, I cannot actually recommend it to a Christian. However, Woody Allen, in his own secular way, addresses the topic of love and what it means to fall in love and decide on a mate and stay in a marriage. The movie shows how easy it is to interpret sexual passion as love, and how unfair it is to set up your life all by yourself, without the Holy Spirit, and marry for convenience and end up having no passion, vulnerable to sinful extramarital activity. Quite an entertaining film, but highly immoral.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Very Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4
Halyna Barannik, age 62
Negative
Negative—I was shocked with the content of this film. It glorified sexual promiscuity, showing how sex is something people do just for fun and with complete strangers. As the story develops we are introduced to a love triange where a man and two women are living together in a sexual relationship. The female character talks openly about sleeping with another women as though it was quite normal. I can see this setting a new low for morality in society, where group relationships will become part of the norm. It's quite sad to see how morality in mainstream films keeps slipping further and further into chaos, and worst of all Christians are embracing it.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Dave, age 28 (UK)
Negative—Tragic commentary on a godless society I can only advise people to avoid the film: Vicky Cristina Barcelona. Nearly all 10 commandments are broken in this film; the characters seem to have absolutely no sense of guilt or qualms over the life choices they make.

Johannson portrays a woman who is perfectly willing to bed a complete stranger, shortly after meeting him, with no other reasoning than saying, “Look, I took an instant liking to this guy.” Hall, portrays her supposedly more level-headed friend, (and her acting is deplorable.) However, Hall's behavior reveals she is only more of a hypocrite than her debauched best friend. Neither of the woman, who are described as college educated, seem to consider the very real risk of contracting HIV, or risking pregnancy as possible results of such reckless living.

Domestic violence is portrayed as humorous; the character portrayed by a stony Javier Bardem is described as having tried to murder his wife. Johanssen writes off what should be a horrifying aspect of Bardem's character, as actually being a positive. “At least he is not from a cookie cutter mold,” Johanssen says, incredibly.

Bardem's character invites both women to share a sexual encounter with all the casualness of someone who might invite others to share a cup of coffee. Hall's character, who is extremely cynical, hypocritical, and deceitful to her fiancee, has a one night stand with Bardem's character, and then is willing to throw away her entire future, and lies to her fiancee to hide her dalliance. She seems to feel no guilt over deceiving her fiancee, or hoping for a second dalliance with a man with whom her best friend lives with. But then, none of the characters seem to have any respect for any one else's relationship, or sense of morality or ethics. Premarital sex, extramarital sex, and sexual perversion are given very light treatment, as though these issues were conventional and almost without consequence. Resolution is portrayed as being as easy as making a decision to remove oneself from the situation. Hall's marriage is played out as actually being made stronger by her deception and adultery.

I believe as Christians, we can safely make the case that sexual sin is never without consequence, and that sexual perversion is neither conventional, nor an option. Christians should be aware that Hall's character boldly takes the Lord's name in vain, repeatedly. As Christians, we should not forget that many actors in Hollywood are self-described atheists, and often what may seem as mere fictional characterization is not always so innocent. Bardem is on record for talking about his hatred for the church.

While we as Christians may feel powerless against what seem to be extremely powerful Hollywood biggies, we must remember that we ourselves, collectively, are also very powerful. And the way to make OUR voice heard, and uphold our own morals and values, is to hit films like this right where our voices will be heard the loudest: in the pocketbook. We would do well to refuse to see films like this, not in the theatres, not in our homes.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 2½
—Caroline, age 44 (USA)
Comments from young people
Negative—I must say that I did not care for this movie. There were a couple of reasons that I did not like this movie. When I first watched,I was not really familiar with the subject matter. I had seen the trailer for the film and I thought that it would be a good film, so I bought it. There were really only two things that I did not like this film. One of them is how, in the movie, these people treat sex so casually. I did not like how Javier Bardem and Scarlett Johnansson's characters are in a relationship together and how sex was a big part of their relationship. The other thing was when Penelope Cruz's character comes into the picture, it becomes a relationship between three people. There is another reason that this film was bad, and that is because it was just plain boring. If you want to save yourself from being bored for 96 min., do not watch this film.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Very Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 2
—Michael, age 17 (USA)
Movie Critics
…any serious examination of the relationship between male and female is minimized by titillating sexuality. Yes, the bespectacled auteur is making fun of unrestricted sexual mores (I think that’s what he’s doing), but he also handles the theme like a smarmy, self-indulgent fantasy. …
—Phil Boatwright, Preview Family Movie and TV Review
…Allen's screenplay steers these characters where you'd expect: into beds between tours of Barcelona's magnificent sights. …
—Steve Persall, St. Petersburg Times
…an eye-roller of epic proportions… There's also an overbearing narrator who unnecessarily describes what each character is thinking, which often feels like stating the obvious. …
—Michael Machosky, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
…If you listen to the neurotic, overly-thought-out dialogue, you'll say, ‘Obviously, this is a Woody Allen movie’ (albeit one with very few jokes), but ‘Vicky’ doesn't look like an Allen movie. …
—Chris Hewitt, St. Paul Pioneer Press
…Smoldering and smart… for all its travelogue charms, ‘Vicky Cristina Barcelona’ is a clever riff on contrasts in character. The narrator's voice carries the lilt of a man telling a fable. So we'd be wise not to fall for all his early insights. …
—Lisa Kennedy, The Denver Post
…The writing is zippy, the story spins like a top, and Bardem turns out to be the wittiest of leading men…
—Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly