Stella’s boyfriend joked to me yesterday that an Onion article could be written about this movie with the title something along the lines of “Woody Allen Makes Movie Just To Have Penelope Cruz and Scarlett Johansson Make Out.” Though I’m no fan of Allen’s infamous perviness, I actually think this movie, though I’m SURE it was no accident, was more than just an excuse for amazingly beautiful actresses to make out. In fact, I think the best part about this movie was how beautiful everything was– the city, the actors, the music– and how utterly pessimistic, depressing, existential, and almost dark the story is.
Scarlett Johansson plays Cristina, an American tourist travelling with her best friend Vicky, played by Rebecca Hall. The two are opposites in terms of the way they view sex, love & dating. Cristina’s is sort of this free-thinking girl who doesn’t know what she wants, just what she doesn’t want. Hmm, that sounds familiar. Vicky thinks she has this perfect plan for her life, valuing structure & the status quo, she is engaged to some really dorky and boring rich dude. The plot predictably throws Javier Bardem’s character, Juan Antonio, into the mix to, you guessed it, mix it all up. Cristina ends up in this 3-way relationship with Juan Antonio and Marielena, his ex wife, played by Penelope Cruz, and Vicky ends up questioning whether or not she actually wants the life she’s always thought she wanted.
However, Allen does not fall into the boring conclusion where everyone finds what they’re looking for, and everyone ends up happy. No, the greatest part of this movie is this– Cristina, though fancying herself a real ingenious free-thinker, does not find a happy alternative in her threesome relationship, and ultimately, will probably never find or even know what she’s looking for. Vicky is doomed to her boring/shit marriage because she simply just doesn’t have the balls to do anything else. But meanwhile, the journey to this horribly depressing realization is beautiful, chaotic, electric– everything Cristina finds exciting. And that, to me, is essentially what life is.
Bardem has some great lines in the scene where he approaches Johansson and Hall for the first time, propositioning them for a weekend in Oveido, and again where he & Vicky hang out one-on one for the first time. It’s totally cheesy written out, but Bardem totally pulls it off, in my opinion:
Life is shit, life is full of pain, why not pleasure ourselves while we may?….The night is warm and balmy, isn’t that enough?
So, basically, everything goes back to what Don Draper says.