Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. Spain/USA, 2008. The Weinstein Company, Mediapro, Gravier Productions, Antena 3 Films, Antena 3 Television, Televisio de Catalunya. Screenplay by Woody Allen. Cinematography by Javier Aguirresarobe. Produced by Letty Aronson, Stephen Tenenbaum, Gareth Wiley. Production Design by Alain Bainee. Costume Design by Sonia Grande. Film Editing by Alisa Lepselter. Academy Awards 2008. Golden Globe Awards 2008. Gotham Awards 2008.
Two American girls come to Barcelona so that one of them (Rebecca Hall) can work on her thesis on Catalan culture while the other (Scarlett Johansson) explores her wandering lust for life. They meet a sexy painter (Javier Bardem) who whisks Johansson off her feet while hitting Hall somewhere deep, then introduces them to his near-psychotic ex-wife (Penelope Cruz, who steals the show) with whom he has yet to form a detachment. Amid conversations that take place on gorgeously lit terraces throughout sun-drenched Catalonia, writer-director Woody Allen explores themes of passion, commitment, the inability to find satisfaction in the pursuit of love and the nature of dissatisfaction itself in a film that harkens back to the bittersweet loveliness of his works from the eighties. The writing is superb and the performances are all incredibly strong. Hall is endlessly likeable, but once Cruz shows up the comedic brilliance is all hers; just watch her face when she asks Johansson to say something in Chinese.