Sex, with Woody Allen

So … are they gonna do it?

Ashley Goetz

So … are they gonna do it?

For some movies, ingredients like plot, dialogue and setting are elemental, finite pieces of information that simply push along the moving image. These elements are easily accomplished in Woody AllenâÄôs newest film âÄúVicky Cristina Barcelona,âÄù but it might be that the movieâÄôs popularity is fueled by something else entirely âÄî something thatâÄôs much harder to come by âÄî something love doctors like to call chemistry. The comedy opens in striking Catalonia, where the seduction hastily begins. From this point we are introduced to the beauty of the land, to its rolling hills and its relaxed ways âÄî and to Vicky and Cristina, two Americans summering in the Catalonian blissfulness. The narrator hurriedly lets us know that the movie is about these ladies and their different views on love. Vicky (Rebecca Hall) is traditional and realistic, and engaged to a man who will forever support and love her, but does little for her in the fluttering-in-the-heart department. Cristina (Scarlet Johansson, in her third Allen movie) is the rebel, the romantic, the personality won by bold pronouncements and brazen actions. Tensions arise when the artist Juan Antonio (a murderously good Javier Bardem, sans âÄúNo Country for Old MenâÄù bob) invites the women to travel with him to a remote town where the three of them will hopefully eat, drink and make love. Despite VickyâÄôs apprehension, the pair decide to go. The plot, convoluted as it is, augments the glamorously idealized aspects of the movie, fleshing out Cristina and VickyâÄôs struggle between romantic idealism and divorce-ridden reality âÄî but not necessarily for the benefit of the viewers. The copious amounts of lovemaking detract from attempts at molding the film into the brooding, him-hawing romantic escape that it claims to be. Allen places his characters in the lap of fantasy, only to periodically yank them back to cruel Earth. But, really, the audience is too busy wondering whoâÄôs going to sleep with whom âÄî and how much of it we get to see âÄî to care about larger thematic motifs. Scarlet Johansson and Penelope Cruz making out upstages all attempts at meaningful moral wonderings, and, at times, the movie feels like nothing more than an excuse to see pretty things interact in pretty ways. Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz manage to create original characters out of flatly written, cliché roles. Cruz plays Juan AntonioâÄôs former wife, María Elena. The painfully artistic twosome has their share of passion-filled spats, and Cruz convincingly plays an unstable painter, dangerously similar to BardemâÄôs Juan Antonio. Cruz embodies bold, erratic behavior, and Bardem easily sheds his former film-persona as a murderer, which is no simple task, considering his startling, Oscar-winning performance in âÄúNo Country for Old Men.âÄù Johansson seems to be the pretty face in the room, and nothing more. The show would be a complete bust had Juan AntonioâÄôs role been played by a man less capable of emitting such visible sex vibes. If the part had been taken over by, say, Woody Allen, the whole thing would be a less-than-rousing joke. The charm of the film is left to the chemistry between its league of sex-icon players.