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Vicky Cristina Barcelona
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that although this romantic dramedy has some risque material (infidelity, discussion of threesomes, passionate embraces), overall it's a witty, intelligent take on the complexities of relationships. As per usual with writer/director Woody Allen's work, its subject matter and complicated characters will likely appeal more to grown-ups than the teenage set. There's some social drinking and smoking and a little bit of swearing, and lovers are shown in various stages of courtship and love-making -- but there's no outright nudity.
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What's the story?
Vicky (Rebecca Hall) and Cristina (Scarlett Johansson) are best friends summering in Barcelona who discover that they may not want what they have -- nor have what they want. They're polar opposites. Vicky is studied and exact, researching a paper on Catalan culture as she prepares for her wedding to the very dependable Doug (Chris Messina). And Cristina is a dilettante -- she's just finished making a film she no longer likes and thinks she may want to be a photographer instead -- who longs for a romantic adventure post-breakup. So it's a bit surprising that they fall for the same guy. And, as it turns out, the man of their dreams -- painter Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem) -- likes them both, as well as his fantastically beautiful, wildly temperamental ex-wife, Maria Elena (Penelope Cruz). Vicky's shocked at the feelings Juan Antonio incites, while Cristina just goes with the flow, even if it means sharing him. In no time, entanglements get even more complicated, forcing everyone to take risks, lose big and, in true Woody Allen fashion, wind up slightly off-center from where they started.
Is it any good?
After a few interesting-yet-tepid films, Woody Allen is a wonder once more with this sexy, witty inspection of love, lust, and marriage basking under a stunning Mediterranean sun. Gifted with a cast that's near flawless, a stunningly beautiful city, and a script that hits a high water mark, Allen doesn't do much wrong here.
Though there are a few exceptions: Using yet another voiceover narrator creates distance when none is needed. It's also distracting. And though Johansson is a sight to behold -- and is better here than in previous Allen outings -- she still seems to be approximating who her character is instead of inhabiting it. Some scenes also tend toward talky, which is typical of the director's work. But, oh, Penelope Cruz! Allen brings out the best in her and photographs her impeccably, too. She's rage-filled and troubled, wickedly funny, and breathtaking. In her, Allen has found a new muse. Now can he come back to New York and wield his camera once more?
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the film's take on relationships -- both between friends and between lovers. Do you think the characters' relationships are realistic? What makes Vicky and Cristina such good friends? How is their friendship tested by Juan Antonio? Fans of Woody Allen can also discuss how this movie compares to his other films. What do his movies tend to have in common?