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Vicky Cristina Barcelona


Stars: Sacrlett Johansson, Rebecca Hall, Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz, Patricia Clarkson, Kevin Dunn, Chris Messina

Director: Woody Allen

A witty but rather talky romantic comedy-drama from Woody Allen, in which two contrasting American girls on an extended Spanish holiday together are both seduced by the charms of the same middle-ageing Catalan painter (Bardem) - and consequently incur the wrath of his slightly deranged ex-wife (Cruz).

Hall is Vicky, the tall, plainer one, engaged to a bland guy back home. She's studying for a 'Masters in Catalan Identity'. 'Whatd'ya plan to do with that?' asks a bewildered acquaintance. Cristina (Johansson) is smaller, curvier and less inhibited and would have been the first to Bardem's bed had she not been sick on wine and shellfish.

As it is, it's the uptight Hall who is seduced first, in a night she can't forget, even after the painter and Cristina move in together, a relationship that becomes a menage a trois (stretching the bounds of the film's 12A certificate) when the painter's ex moves back in. They also encourage Cristina's interest in photography.

The game of romantic musical chairs continues, though it doesn't end quite as you might anticipate. Warmly photographed on location in Barcelona, the film marks on improvement on the director's recent work (not too difficult, admittedly), although the preponderance of 'smart', literate dialogue over all other elements might have your attention drifting at times. Cruz and Hall give intelligent performances, and Bardem makes a persuasive Latin lover, if more rugged than Hollywood idols of yesteryear.

David Quinlan

USA 2008. UK Distributor: Optimum. Colour by deluxe.
96 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 02 Feb 2009