Vicky Cristina Barcelona @ Greater Union Innaloo Megaplex
I know, I know. I’ve complained about my local cinema’s lack of technical chops before. But I’m growing increasingly convinced that the Greater Union Innaloo Megaplex is some kind of remedial workshop for failed hedge fund managers. What other explanation could there be for advertising incorrect start times for a movie? It’s not an airline, it’s a cinema, for godsakes. Presumably, one knows how long the movie runs for, the time the ads take, how long it takes to do a perfunctory “clean-up.” Why then at the advertised start time, is the previous session still running? How hard can this be to get right?
It wasn’t a good way to start Vicky Cristina Barcelona (VCB), which I had high hopes was going to grease the wheels with my gal pal for some ménage a trois action. And no, that wasn’t the only reason I’d dragged myself with her to the cinema to see Woody Allen’s latest. I still had piquant memories of Allen’s Match Point, which was his most enjoyable movie of recent times.
Like Match Point, VCB starts out with narration. Call me old fashioned, but I always equate narration with an inability to script properly. But if you ARE gonna do it, then make it brief and kind of teasingly abstract, like it was in Match Point. Not a detailed, blow-by-blow description of every character nuance and plot point. The narration crops up ALL the time in VCB and it’s fackin’ annoying. Is this for dumb-fuck Americans who can’t comprehend anything unless it’s being shot or blown-up?
Worse still is the dialogue. It’s toe-curlingly bad. In fact, it’s hard to believe that Allen, who wrote Match Point, also wrote VCB. The dialogue was so bad that there were outbreaks of guffawing in the audience at inappropriate times (and it wasn’t just me). This is worrying. If the audience is laughing AT you in suburban Perth then they will be pissing themselves AT you in more worldy spots (like Bunbury).
What makes it worse is that sexuality, chemistry, romanticism and the laws of attraction – which are central to this movie – are devalued relentlessly by the botched dialogue, and whatever energy the more-than-capable cast generates simply evaporates. Thus, impressively, Allen manages to make kinky sex both unexciting and unbelievable.
Speaking of kinky sex, there isn’t much of it on screen (gee, luckily, the narrator tells us all about it though!). There’s a girly snog in a darkroom between Johansson’s character and Cruz’s deranged bint which is about as hot as it gets. Cruz – who turns in the best performance of the bunch – cleverly delivers most of her lines in Spanish, thus avoiding Allen’s turgid English dialogue.
But the movie isn’t just about an old American man’s ideas of contemporary sexual attitudes. It’s also about the ennui and vacuousness that grips the two American girls (and really America as a nation, as well). They are self-absorbed, rich, clueless and vapid; the complete opposite of the mad Spanish artist and his crazy girlfriend.
Unfortunately, spiritually-empty-clueless-Americans have been done better before; Babel springs to mind, most recently. The idea of putting sexual intrigue into the mix could work really well, but unfortunately doesn’t in this case due to the scripting and narration. It’s unsexy and unenjoyable. Avoid.