My favorite Woody Allen movies are the ones where someone else plays Woody Allen. John Cusack in Bullets over Broadway, Seth Green in Radio Days and Jason Biggs in Anything Else turn in my favorite performances of Woody. The man is such a character himself, that it is always a delight for me to see some else portray him, even Will Ferrell in Melinda and Melinda. So, I was head over heels when Rebecca Hall begins to deconstruct Javier Bardem in front of Scarlett Johansson in Woody’s newest film, Vicky Cristina Barcelona. While you can tell that Cristina and Juan Antonio are attracted to each other, Vicky completely removes herself from the situation to comment on the absurdity of it and from that moment on, I was in love with her. Yes, both Scarlett and Penelope Cruz are gorgeous, but Rebecca Hall completely stole the film away from them and every time the story moved away from her, I could not wait for it to come back to her.
Of course, this is all to Woody’s intent. While the movie looked to be a simple sex comedy with Javier, Scarlett and Penelope in a love triangle, the real story is not about any of them. It becomes Vicky’s story and Rebecca Hall’s movie. I know people enjoyed Penelope more or perhaps thought that Scarlett was truly the star of the film, but it was Vicky who undergoes the real transformation in the story, becoming a different person by the end than she was in the beginning. And Hall moves from her very serious and underrated performance in The Prestige, to a light comedic role with an American accent. Right now, I am riding hard for her as my Supporting Actress of the Year.
But that does not take away from anyone else, as the rest of the cast turn in great performances as well. Javier is miles removed from last year’s No Country turn and turns on the leading man charm that has only previously been known to fans of foreign films. Scarlett was a terrific choice as a woman who never knows what she wants; only what she doesn’t want. Maybe it is just me but she always seem to have a slightly perplexed look on her face, like she’s not quite sure what’s going on, but just enjoying the ride. And while I certainly agree with all the praise heaped on Penelope Cruz, I thought she was far better in Volver and that she was barely in the movie at all. She was a force of nature, tearing through the film like she did in Blow, but I never got to really understand her, only what she meant to the other characters. None of my gripes took away from the film at all, as I felt it was an amazing return to form for Woody after films like Match Point and Cassandra’s Dream. The images of